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Editorial: Secretary of State Does A Disappointing 180

edit07-17.11
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Look at the 12 lines of type blacked out in the e-mail above.

That’s your Secretary of State’s Office at work.

And that’s cold comfort to voters who promoted Dianna Duran to statewide office last year from her Senate seat representing Otero and Doña Ana counties. They believed Duran’s campaign pledge that she would use her 30 years of election work experience to clean up operations in the scandal-plagued office, to make it accountable, to deliver New Mexicans an electoral process they could believe in.

Duran has surely heard the well-worn phrase “seeing is believing.” And seeing her office redact line after line after line in letter after letter in her investigation of irregularities in voter files does not position her in the eyes of the public as the champion of transparency she claimed to be while campaigning.

Duran has also surely heard the well-worn phrase “practice what you preach.” Unfortunately, her Republican Party, which sued Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration for claiming “executive privilege” as a defense to complying with the state’s public records law, is now embracing Duran doing the same thing.

Duran’s office claims releasing the information now “will compromise the Secretary of State’s decision-making process.” She says she will release some of it after her investigation is complete. That’s not executive privilege; that’s situational censorship.

Sarah Welsh, the executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, rightly points out that executive privilege was never set up as a temporary measure to keep information from the public, and it “was never intended to pull a shade over the decision-making process of every government official, at every level. When it’s exercised that way, the public loses any meaningful ability to see what our government is doing and why.”

Voters elected Duran to deliver an election process they could believe in. To gauge her progress so far, all they can do is read between her pages and pages of redacted lines.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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