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Poll Watchers Get Misleading Info

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SANTA FE – A Sandoval County Republican Party official provided misinformation to poll challengers in a recent training session, prompting complaints from the Democratic Party that it was done to suppress voting.

The false or misleading information – about voter identification requirements, the use of provisional ballots and more – was documented in an undercover video recorded by ProgressNow New Mexico and excerpted on the Democratic-leaning group’s website.

The organization said the video was filmed at a Sept. 26 training session in Albuquerque for poll challengers. It was not immediately clear who sponsored the training session. Poll challengers are representatives of political parties who by law can watch voting and file challenges under limited circumstances.

The video excerpts feature Pat Morlen, who is the first vice chairwoman of the Republican Party in Sandoval County and an Albuquerque Tea Party activist, answering questions.

Morlen did not return return phone and email messages from the Journal.

The state Republican Party said it did not conduct the training, “is looking into the matter and does not condone misinformation.”

“Since voting has not yet started, any misinformation given can be corrected before the election,” state GOP communications director Jamie Dickerman also said in a statement.

The general election is Nov. 6. Absentee voting starts Tuesday, and early in-person voting starts on Oct. 20.

State Democratic Party Chairman Javier Gonzales said the misinformation was “clearly meant to intimidate and confuse voters.”

In the video excerpts, Morlen tells trainees that voters who received postcards this summer from the secretary of state asking them to confirm their addresses – the first step in a planned 2015 purge of the voter rolls – would have to vote on provisional ballots.

That’s not true, Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s office confirmed Thursday. Those voters – the more than 177,000 who received the purge postcards – would vote on regular ballots.

Morlen, on the videotape, also wrongly says that voters can be asked to show physical identification if two elections officials request it, quoting from a manual prepared for poll challengers.

Morlen cited a section of the law that state Bureau of Elections Director Bobbi Shearer said Thursday is no longer in effect.

By law, voters only have to state their names, addresses and birth years at polling places.

Those voters who may be asked for physical identification are first-time voters who registered by mail and didn’t provide documentation with the registration, elections officials said.

Shearer said she called Morlen when she learned of the video on Thursday and explained where she was wrong.

Ken Ortiz, spokesman for Secretary of State Duran, said the office asked Morlen “to update her training and reach out to anyone who was previously trained” to provide the correct information.
— This article appeared on page A6 of the Albuquerque Journal

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