Otero County highlighted by Jan. 6 Committee - Albuquerque Journal

Otero County highlighted by Jan. 6 Committee

Otero County, New Mexico Commissioner Couy Griffin stands outside the federal court after receiving a verdict in his trial, March 22, 2022, in Washington. (Gemunu Amarasinghe/Associated Press)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

A southern New Mexico county's standoff over certifying the recent primary election results took center stage during the opening remarks in the House Jan. 6 Committee's hearing on Tuesday.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the committee chair, said the scrap in Otero County highlights the importance of the committee's work investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

“We can't just look backward … because the danger hasn't gone away,” he said.

Thompson recapped the Otero County Commission's dispute for the national audience.

The county's three commissioners originally refused to certify the results of New Mexico's June 7 primary election. They argued, in part, that they didn't trust the Dominion Voting Systems equipment used in New Mexico and throughout the country.

The Dominion conspiracy was mentioned during a prior hearing, which played statements by former Attorney General Bill Barr, who said former President Donald Trump had “become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff.”

Last week, the New Mexico Supreme Court ordered Otero County to certify the results after Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver filed a petition that said the commission's refusal to approve the results violated state election law.

Two of the three commissioners relented and certified the results. Commissioner Couy Griffin, the founder of Cowboys for Trump, voted again not to certify. He said his vote was based on gut feelings the results weren't accurate.

Thompson, without saying his name, pointed out that Griffin had been convicted of entering a restricted area during the Jan. 6 attack. He said the saga shows that misinformation about election results remains a problem.

“The lie hasn't gone away. It's corrupting our Democratic institutions,” he said during the hearing. “People who believe that lie are now seeking positions of public trust. And as seen in New Mexico, their oath to the people they serve will take a backseat to their commitment to the big lie.”

New Mexico was brought up again later in Tuesday's hearing, which focused on efforts by Trump, his lawyers and other supporters to pressure election officials throughout the country to change the outcome.

Those efforts included a plot in six states that Biden won – including New Mexico – to replace the states' electors with pro-Trump electors, who submitted certificates that aimed to award their states' electoral votes to Trump.

The New Mexican fake electors were Jewll Powdrell, Deborah Maestas, a former chair of the state Republican Party, Lupe Garcia, an Albuquerque business owner, Rosie Tripp, a former Socorro County commissioner, and Anissa Ford-Tinnin, a former executive director of the state Republican Party.

The New Mexico Republican Party has defended their actions, saying the group only submitted the documented in case “it might be determined” that they were the rightful electors.

There was testimony during the hearing that many lawyers in Trump's campaign and administration refused to participate in the maneuver to submit fake electors.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas announced this year that his office was reviewing the matter and had also referred the incident to federal authorities.

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