The House approved HB 399, which seeks to require counties with 35,000 or more people to expand their county commissions to five members, on Thursday by a vote of 40-28.
Only three counties would be affected by the bill should it pass: Otero, McKinley and Rio Arriba counties. “Thank you for the very strong-minded debate and the urgency that we all are coming to recognize,” bill co-sponsor Rep. Willie Madrid, D-Chaparral, said. “I have to say in closing, you know, when we talk about the statutes and listen to the discussion today, it was a start of the will of the people. They have to be a part of this.”
Commission districts must be equally distributed based on population alone. The county commissioner boards draw the new district maps, bill co-sponsor Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, said.
Former Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin caused a fuss at the Otero County Commission meeting last week when his time at the public comment table became so heated, one of the sitting county commissioners plans to file a restraining order against Griffin. Griffin was unhappy that Stephanie DuBois, a Democrat, was appointed to his old seat after Griffin was removed from office based on the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment’s Disqualification Clause after his conviction related to his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection in Washington, D.C.
“I’m going to have to do what I’m going to have to do,” DuBois said Monday.
DuBois deemed Griffin’s rant as a verbal assault and is in the process of filing a restraining order against Griffin. “Couy Griffin, duly elected and legitimate county commissioner of District 2 as well as founder of Cowboys for Trump and I’d like to just start out by saying looking up here at you Stephanie (DuBois) in that seat is a total disgrace,” Griffin declared.
Griffin said that he felt DuBois’ appointment was disgraceful because she has run for office in Otero County eight times including in last week’s election and has lost each time. DuBois interjected and Griffin said that “I’m talking right now.
After a year that included a southern New Mexico county commission refusing to certify a primary election, misinformation about New Mexico’s election security and how it has affected voter turnout, the Secretary of State’s Office and county clerks are ready for Election Day next week. “(The New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office) is feeling good about it, no reports of anything bad happening as far as we know,” New Mexico Secretary of State spokesman Alex Curtas said. “It seems people are voting easily and without disruption we’re getting pretty good turnout numbers… I wouldn’t be surprised if we got upwards of 60 percent for total turnout when all is said and done.”
On election night on Nov. 8, votes will be counted after the polls close at 7 p.m.
These include the absentee ballots which begin being processed (separated from the envelopes and shuffled to preserve voter anonymity) prior to election night. The absentee ballots are not run through machines until after polls close on Nov.
The fall of Roe v. Wade in June led three women to form a reproductive rights group in Otero County. Natalie Wilkins, Shari Adkisson and Marylouise Kuti forged New Voices Otero in response to the leak of the U.S. Supreme Court draft document of its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Healthcare decision in May as an offshoot of their initial protest activity. Despite the potential for backlash, they told NM Political Report they believe being vocal is important on issues such as reproductive rights but, also, already looking ahead, on social justice issues as they move forward. New Voices Otero spoke out against the resolutions passed by both the Otero County Commission and Alamogordo City Council in July to designate both the county and the city as “sanctuaries for the unborn.” Anti-abortion activists have said such designations are one of the initial steps which could, over the course of years, alter the political climate of the state so New Mexico could become a state where abortion would no longer be legal. Related: How anti-abortion activists plan to turn New Mexico into an anti-abortion state
“In our viewpoint, there were more people there [at the Alamogordo City Council meeting] saying no over the people saying yes.
A Santa Fe state district court judge ordered on Tuesday that Couy Griffin be removed from office and disqualified from holding any other public office in the future because of his role in the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. In his ruling, First Judicial District Court Judge Francis Mathew wrote that Griffin “shall be removed from his position as an Otero County Commissioner effective immediately.” Mathew also wrote that Griffin is “constitutionally disqualified” from holding any office in the future.
The decision is in response to a civil suit filed by a group of citizens against Griffin that argued the leader of Cowboys for Trump violated the U.S. Constitution by taking part in the effort last year to stop Congress from certifying the presidential election. Griffin, representing himself, argued during a bench trial last month that he could not be removed from office because Otero County voters elected him to office and further rejected a petition to remove him from office. But Mathew wrote that Griffin himself tried to overturn the people’s will on January 6, 2021.
“The irony of Mr. Griffin’s argument that this court should refrain from applying the law and consider the will of the people in District Two of Otero County who retained him as a county commissioner against a recall effort as he attempts to defend his participation in an insurrection by a mob whose goal, by his own admission, was to set aside the results of a free, fair and lawful election by a majority of the people of the entire country (the will of the people) has not escaped this Court,” Mathew wrote.
Griffin has long maintained that his presence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 was that of moral support and was protected by his right to free speech. But Mathew wrote that Griffin’s attempts to “sanitize his actions are without merit and contrary to the evidence produced by the Plaintiffs, bearing in mind that he produced no evidence himself in his own defense.”
“[Griffin’s] protestations and his characterizations of his actions and the events of January 6, 2021 are not credible and amounted to nothing more than attempting to put lipstick on a pig.”
Mathew cited evidence and witness testimony from the plaintiffs that Griffin used inflammatory language and spent days encouraging supporters to show up at the Capitol to show that Griffin and Cowboys for Trump “played a key role” in mobilizing “efforts ahead of the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol.” Mathew went on to write that eyewitness testimony “confirms that Griffin’s attention seeking behavior energized the mob when violence had already been going on for hours.”
In now widespread footage of the January 6 insurrection, Griffin can be seen climbing a barricade that was turned on its side to gain access to a restricted area of the Capitol.
On Friday, the Otero County Commission voted against providing legal counsel for controversial Commissioner Couy Griffin. Griffin himself did not vote on the issue but the other two commissioners voted against approving county-provided legal representation for Griffin in a lawsuit against him filed in state district court.
Griffin has gained national attention, first for leading an organization in support of former President Donald Trump called Cowboys for Trump. Griffin again gained national attention for climbing over barricades during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, an incident that would ultimately lead to a misdemeanor conviction of entering a federally restricted area. Griffin was acquitted of a disorderly conduct charge.
A controversy over certifying election results in Otero County that made national headlines ended quietly on Friday with a 2-1 vote in favor of certifying the results.
Facing possible criminal charges and removal from office, Otero County Commissioners Gerald Matherly and Vickie Marquardt voted to certify the county’s primary election results, while Commissioner Couy Griffin stayed true to his word and voted against certification. All are Republicans. Griffin, who hours before, was sentenced by a federal judge for being in an unauthorized area during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, said his reason for voting against the certification wasn’t “based on any evidence,” but instead his intuition.
“It’s only based on my gut, my gut feeling, and my own intuition and that’s all I need to base my vote on the elections right there,” Griffin said.
A breath later, Griffin criticized “the media” for ignoring facts that he said the commission had found that allegedly show state elections are fraudulent.
“I still believe that our elections are fraudulent,” Griffin said. “I believe that we already have enough evidence to prove, to substantiate what the media keeps calling unsubstantiated.
The New Mexico Supreme Court ordered three county commissioners in southern New Mexico to comply with state law by certifying the county’s primary election results.
After the three-member Otero County Commission refused to certify election results during a meeting on Monday, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver filed a petition with the state’s high court asking justices to compel the county commission to follow state law and to do their ministerial duty. On Wednesday, the state supreme court granted the writ of mandamus and ordered the commissioners to “comply with the requirements set forth in [state law].”
The commission has until Friday to meet and certify the election or presumably face a contempt of court charge.
Otero County Commission Chair Vickie Marquardt could not be reached for comment, but Commissioner Couy Griffin told NM Political Report that he plans to “hold the line.”
“What the state is trying to do to us by leveraging us, and taking control, essentially, of our commission board through the courts, I believe, is very unconstitutional and it’s an absolute disgrace.”
Griffin was found guilty earlier this year of illegally entering a restricted area during the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
State law requires that local governments certify election results within 10 days of an election and then send the results to state election officials for further certification. Until that process is completed, the election results are deemed unofficial and the winners of the primary election are not officially candidates. Holding up the certification process also means that Griffin’s colleague, Commissioner Gerald Matherly, who won his Republican primary race by 32 percentage points, is still not considered a general election candidate.