ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Allegations of voter fraud by a Republican seeking election to a Democratic-held House seat on the West Side are being investigated by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office.
ProgressNow New Mexico, a nonprofit progressive think tank, alleges that retired Marine Johnny Luévano may have violated state voter registration laws and illegally voted in a city election by using an address that he did not have a required city permit to occupy until a few days ago.
The group is also challenging Luévano’s eligibility to run for the state House of Representatives District 16 seat now held by Democrat Antonio “Moe” Maestas.
Luévano’s response in an email to the Journal is that he has “legally met all residency requirements.” He declined to say when he began occupying the home in the district which is listed as his place of residence on his voter registration card.
“I am not going to answer that question because that is not the issue,” Luévano’s email said.
Luévano filed as a candidate on Tuesday. The voter registration card he completed in April 2011 claimed he was living at an address on Bluffside NW in the district but getting mail at a South Valley address outside the district.
Luévano said he has owned the property on Bluffside since 2006 and began building a house there last April.
But the city issued the certificate of occupancy, the permit required to legally live in a home, only on March 14.
“You are not to live there, work there or operate a business there before you get this” certificate of occupancy, city Planning Department spokeswoman Deborah Nason said.
By law, candidates must have been living in the district on March 6 to qualify to run, New Mexico Secretary of State spokesman Kenneth Ortiz said.
The law also says “permanent residence shall be resolved in favor of that place shown on the person’s certificate of registration, provided the person resides on the premises.”
ProgressNow New Mexico executive director Pat Davis said his group has been monitoring new candidates who have declared their intention to run for office. Their research on Luévano revealed an address in Tucson and the South Valley.
“And that raised some red flags for us,” Davis said.
After Luévano filed his candidacy, the group wrote a letter to the city and county clerks and the Secretary of State’s Office asking for an investigation.
Ortiz said the secretary of state would not investigate the issue because the district was wholly within Bernalillo County.
County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver said she forwarded ProgressNow’s letter to the county attorney, who agreed they should turn the matter over to law enforcement.
Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jennifer Vega-Brown said the detective assigned to the case is the same officer who is investigating the case of Thom Tolbert, who recently registered his black Labrador retriever dog to vote. Tolbert is the husband of a staff member for Heather Wilson’s U.S. Senate campaign.
— This article appeared on page D2 of the Albuquerque Journal