A federal lawsuit filed against former Sandoval County Clerk Sally Padilla and Bureau of Elections Chief Eddie Gutierrez claims they deprived voters in Republican-leaning Rio Rancho of their right to vote by having too few voting centers, a situation that led three Republican candidates to lose to Democrats.
The lawsuit calls for new elections in races involving David Doyle, Paula Papponi and Lawrence McClain.
It also asks the court to require Sandoval County election officials to adopt standards that provide Rio Rancho voters the opportunity to “exercise their constitutional rights” to vote.
Attorney Pat Rogers and the Paul Kennedy & Associates law firm filed the lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court on behalf of Doyle, Papponi, McClain and Teresa Fleming, a Republican living in Rio Rancho.
The lawsuit claims decisions by Padilla and Gutierrez to consolidate precincts into five voting convenience centers in Rio Rancho caused long lines and waiting times of more than five hours, leading Republican voters like Fleming to give up before casting ballots.
Padilla, who left office because of term limits, has defended her staff, saying they did a good job. Gutierrez has acknowledged he counted on problem-free processing when deciding on how many printers to allocate to each voting center.
The lawsuit claims Padilla and Gutierrez are Democrats and says they allowed fewer voting locations in Rio Rancho, a heavily Republican area, than in other areas of the county that are predominantly Democrat.
Because many Republicans were deprived of their right to vote, it claims the results of races in which Doyle, Papponi and McClain lost to Democrats were “unconstitutionally decided.”
Doyle lost to John Sapien in the race for Senate District 9; Papponi lost the county clerk’s race to Eileen Garbagni; and McClain lost the probate judge race to Charles Aguilar.
The lawsuit names Garbagni as a nominal defendant because she now has Padilla’s position. It also names Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver as a nominal defendant because one District 9 precinct is in Bernalillo County and she would be involved in any new election.
Rogers also sought to have the Doyle and Papponi election results overturned but later dropped the request.
— This article appeared on page A4 of the Albuquerque Journal