SOS says office can’t pay open records penalty

The Secretary of State’s office can’t pay the penalty after being unable to comply with an open records law related to allegations of voter fraud. Now, after another appeal lost by the Secretary of State, the tab is nearly $125,000 and Secretary of State Brad Winter says they can’t pay up. That news comes from […]

SOS says office can’t pay open records penalty

The Secretary of State’s office can’t pay the penalty after being unable to comply with an open records law related to allegations of voter fraud.

Now, after another appeal lost by the Secretary of State, the tab is nearly $125,000 and Secretary of State Brad Winter says they can’t pay up.

That news comes from a report in the Albuquerque Journal. The penalty for violating the state law dates back to Dianna Duran’s time as Secretary of State and a 2011 assertion that voter fraud was rampant in New Mexico.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico sought the documents from Duran’s office to back up the allegations but never received any. Instead, the civil rights organization found itself in a legal battle with the Secretary of State’s office. The case was settled in 2013, but the Secretary of State’s office balked at paying the nearly-$90,000 bill in legal fees.

The Secretary of State’s office soon lost another appeal, this one saying the $90,000 tab was unreasonable. Now, with an election just two months away, the Secretary of State’s office says they can’t pay up.

From the Journal:

“We understand what our obligation is,” Winter told the Journal, “and what we are looking at is to try to find some alternative funding to pay that.”

He said his agency planned to ask the Legislature for a special appropriation next year.

“It’s tough because that’s a significant amount of money,” Winter said.

ACLU attorney Philip B. Davis said, “It’s really frustrating. It’s an incredible waste of taxpayers’ money.”

A special appropriation may be tough to obtain; the state legislature is currently looking at cutting spending across the state to deal with declining revenue.

Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, has noted that any increased state budget spending for anyone, including special appropriations, could be tough to come by.

The state’s Risk Management Division, which insures state agencies, won’t be any help. The division’s director said these kind of penalties are excluded from coverage provided by the division.

Still, the money owed from the Secretary of State is a judgement ordered by a court.

In other words, it has to happen.

“We fully expect the state to pay the judgement,” Phil Davis, an attorney representing the ACLU, told NM Political Report in an interview. “We expect the Secretary of State to make the request to finance the settlement because it’s a court order. And we expect the [state] legislature to respond to the request because it’s a court order.”

If the Secretary of State fails to pay up, a court could find him in contempt and issue further sanctions.

Searching for voter fraud

The start of it all came when Duran looked for evidence of voter fraud within the state.

In 2011, shortly after taking office, Duran said that 117 people registered to vote did so illegally and that 37 illegally voted in elections.

Duran later sent the names of 64,000 individuals she felt potentially fraudulently registered to vote or even voted to the Department of Public Safety.

At this time, the ACLU sought documentation to support Duran’s claims of voter fraud, under the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act. Duran’s office never turned over all the requested documents, though did release some redacted documents, and a district court judge found Duran’s office violated the law. This prompted the original order of attorney’s fees.

Also, the Secretary of State’s office admitted that the list of 117 who allegedly were registered and 37 who allegedly voted “did not, in fact, exist and never have.

They said they instead just checked the Motor Vehicle Division Foreign National Database against the voter rolls to make the determination.

Duran herself is no longer in office despite winning reelection less than two years ago. Duran resigned last year shortly before pleading guilty to felony charges related to misuse of campaign contributions. Duran spent large amounts of money, including some campaign funds, at local casinos.

Duran eventually spent 30 days in Santa Fe County jail.

Correction: This story originally referred to the Motor Vehicle Division as the Motor Vehicle Department.

We're ad free

That means that we rely on support from readers like you. Help us keep reporting on the most important New Mexico Stories by donating today.

Related

Emily’s List endorses seven candidates for Legislature

Emily’s List endorses seven candidates for Legislature

Emily’s List, a nonprofit that supports women candidates and reproductive rights, endorsed seven incumbents facing general election opponents in New Mexico legislative elections. All…
Equality New Mexico endorses 15 legislative candidates

Equality New Mexico endorses 15 legislative candidates

A New Mexico-based LGBTQ rights organization endorsed 15 candidates for state House and Senate seats for the 2024 elections.  Marshall Martinez, executive director of…
Lujan Grisham pocket vetoes two bills

Lujan Grisham pocket vetoes two bills

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham pocket vetoed two bills the legislature passed this legislative session: one changing the Cybersecurity Act and the other concerning law…
Feds announce final renewable energy rule for public lands

Feds announce final renewable energy rule for public lands

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced a final renewable energy rule Thursday that is expected to pave the way for increased wind, solar…
Heinrich co-sponsors legislation to address PFAS in private wells

Heinrich co-sponsors legislation to address PFAS in private wells

About 13 percent of New Mexico’s population relies solely on private wells for drinking water and this removes a level of health security. For…
EPA announces new drinking water standards for PFAS chemicals

EPA announces new drinking water standards for PFAS chemicals

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced drinking water standards on Wednesday that are intended to protect Americans from contamination from PFAS chemicals. This is…
Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican The main things that bring Brayan Chavez to school every day: Seeing, talking to and engaging with…
Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican Brittany Behenna Griffith has a laundry list of adjectives to describe the ideal special education teacher:…
Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican A challenging task awaits New Mexico lawmakers in the next 30 days: Reconciling three very different…
Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Amy Maxmen, KFF Health News Four years after hospitals in New York City overflowed with covid-19 patients, emergency physician Sonya Stokes remains shaken by…
Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday $10 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act was awarded to six tribal nations and…
Proposal to curb executive powers moves to House Judiciary

Proposal to curb executive powers moves to House Judiciary

The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee discussed a potential constitutional amendment that seeks to limit the governor’s executive powers. The committee approved…
How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that an 1864 abortion ban is enforceable, throwing another state bordering New Mexico into the situation of…
The status of the lawsuit New Mexico joined to remove FDA restrictions to mifepristone

The status of the lawsuit New Mexico joined to remove FDA restrictions to mifepristone

While the U.S. Supreme Court considers the future of access to the abortion medication, mifepristone, another lawsuit against the FDA that would expand access…
Senators introduce legislation to aid abortion providers

Senators introduce legislation to aid abortion providers

Sen. Martin Heinrih and other Senate colleagues introduced abortion rights legislation into the U.S. Senate on Thursday. The Abortion Care Capacity Enhancement and Support…
How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that an 1864 abortion ban is enforceable, throwing another state bordering New Mexico into the situation of…
The status of the lawsuit New Mexico joined to remove FDA restrictions to mifepristone

The status of the lawsuit New Mexico joined to remove FDA restrictions to mifepristone

While the U.S. Supreme Court considers the future of access to the abortion medication, mifepristone, another lawsuit against the FDA that would expand access…
Senators introduce legislation to aid abortion providers

Senators introduce legislation to aid abortion providers

Sen. Martin Heinrih and other Senate colleagues introduced abortion rights legislation into the U.S. Senate on Thursday. The Abortion Care Capacity Enhancement and Support…
Politics Newsletter: Early and absentee voting

Politics Newsletter: Early and absentee voting

Good morning fellow political junkies! Early and absentee voting for the June 4 New Mexico primary begins in about a month. The nonprofit election…
San Juan County, Navajo Nation settle redistricting case

San Juan County, Navajo Nation settle redistricting case

The Navajo Nation and San Juan County reached an agreement Monday about commission districts after the tribe alleged that its members were not adequately…
MIT ranks NM elections most well-run in the U.S.

MIT ranks NM elections most well-run in the U.S.

New Mexico’s 2022 election was ranked most well-run in the country by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Election Data and Science Lab’s Elections Performance Index.…
What the low unemployment rates for months means for NM’s economy

What the low unemployment rates for months means for NM’s economy

Post-pandemic, New Mexico has had an extended run of low unemployment rates. New Mexico’s unemployment rate has remained stable at 4.0 percent since October…
Feds announce final renewable energy rule for public lands

Feds announce final renewable energy rule for public lands

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced a final renewable energy rule Thursday that is expected to pave the way for increased wind, solar…
How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that an 1864 abortion ban is enforceable, throwing another state bordering New Mexico into the situation of…

GET INVOLVED

© 2023 New Mexico Political Report