Monday, November 06, 2006
Democrats Accuse Republicans of Misleading Polling Site Info
By Felicia Fonseca/
The state Democratic Party asked a judge Monday to prohibit the state Republican Party from calling voters and providing information on polling sites.
The Democrats alleged GOP callers provided voters with incorrect information on polling locations in Albuquerque in an effort to cause confusion.
"Plaintiffs believe the Republican Party is likely engaged in a concerted effort to mislead and misdirect voters and thereby interfere with those citizens' votes and interfere with the conduct of the election, in an effort to disenfranchise the persons that the defendants are able to fraudulently mislead into going to the wrong polling location to cast their votes,'' the Democrats' complaint said.
State District Judge Richard Knowles didn't immediately rule on the matter.
"There is no doubt some wrong numbers were placed,'' Pat Rogers, an attorney for the state GOP, said during Monday morning's hearing.
The Democrats called five witnesses, all of whom testified they received incorrect information about polling locations. The Democrats also said they have identified seven others who received wrong information.
Some of the callers identified themselves as volunteers from the GOP; others did not provide party identification, the witnesses said.
Camille Chavez, a Green Party member, said she received three calls Saturday from people who identified themselves as volunteers with the GOP.
She said her polling site is at an elementary school, but she was told by one caller that her polling location was at a high school and by another caller that it was at a middle school.
"I've heard this has happened before in other elections in other parts of the country,'' Chavez said. "I was just shocked it was happening here in Albuquerque.''
The Republican Party placed about 20,000 calls during the past weekend, and Rogers said the five Democratic witnesses represented a small number. He did not say how many of the 20,000 calls were about polling places.
New Mexico Republican Party chairman Allen Weh denied that the GOP was trying to disenfranchise voters or do anything unethical.
"It's clear that when you've got several hundred volunteers, calls obviously went to the wrong people,'' Weh said.
The GOP has changed the script for calls to make sure that names and addresses match phone numbers, Rogers said.
The Democrats alleged Sunday they learned of several instances in which voters received phone messages providing incorrect polling information from people who identified themselves as workers at GOP headquarters.
The Democratic Party said Sunday: "All voters should be warned that false information is being spread in an apparent desperate attempt to win the election through confusing and potentially illegal actions.''
"The Republican Party is either grossly negligent or incompetent in the administration of their field program, their get-out-the vote program. That's a best-case scenario. Worst-case scenario they are actively seeking to confuse Democratic voters,'' Matt Farrauto, the state Democratic Party's executive director, said Monday.
But the Republican Party said Sunday it's the Democrats who are using dirty tricks to stop the GOP from encouraging voters to go to the polls Tuesday.
Marta Kramer, executive director of the state GOP, said party volunteers have been on the phone making thousands of phone calls, and she knew of only one instance in which a voter was initially given incorrect information.
"It was one woman,'' Kramer said late Sunday. "There were three other people in the voter file with the same name. The volunteer said 'Hi' and identified herself and left a phone number. She (the voter) called back and said this is who I am and gave her address and we gave her the correct information.''
Kramer said the allegations are preposterous. "That's outrageous to try to file a junk motion to get us to stop (calling voters),'' she said.
Kramer said a judge had already dismissed a previous motion by the Democratic Party, and she described the latest one as "the same last-minute attempt to handcuff the Republicans' get-out-the-vote operation.''
Election Day is Tuesday, and both parties pushed hard during the weekend to reach potential voters and encourage them to go to the polls. Democrats used a statewide train tour, while Republicans went door-to-door in some neighborhoods and made phone calls.
Votes in Albuquerque's 1st Congressional District will be especially coveted because Republican incumbent Heather Wilson and Democrat Patricia Madrid, the state attorney general, are in what some consider one of the nation's most hotly contested races.
Copyright ©2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.