Let judge's 2012 election decision stand - Albuquerque Journal

Let judge’s 2012 election decision stand

As a voter, resident and Sandoval County commissioner, I was appalled with the county clerk’s handling of the 2012 General Election in Rio Rancho. The fact that thousands of voters were not able to exercise their right to vote or had to wait five or more hours was clear disrespect for voters in Rio Rancho and unacceptable.

I promised I would do all I could to ensure a repeat of the 2012 voting disaster wouldn’t happen. In December 2012, the commission unanimously passed a resolution acknowledging that wait times were unacceptable and resulting in some eligible voters not voting.

In October 2013, the commission adopted a resolution that set 17 convenience centers in Rio Rancho for the 2014 election.

U.S. District Court Judge William P. Johnson recently issued his decision concerning the clerk’s handling of the 2012 election. Based on testimony of present and former county clerks and others, and because of the historical mistreatment of Rio Rancho voters over decades, the judge was unwilling to accept the traditional “promises” to fix things next time.

The decision noted that the clerk and elections officials, instead of taking responsibility and working diligently to make sure elections were open and honest this time, continued to falsely blame others for their own and significant errors that led to the 2012 election day “debacle.” Judge Johnson’s decision requires strict compliance by the clerk and Bureau of Elections director with the commission resolution.

From Judge Johnson’s opinion and order:

  • Page 14 – the current County Clerk “stated that she would not consider the 2012 election a disaster or a debacle. In fact, she stated she felt everything went well in the 2012 election and the events were acceptable, with the exception of a few ‘kinks.’ She described the 2012 election as ‘very good.'”
  • Pages 18/19 – “Defendants repeatedly urged the court to ‘trust them’ and to allow them to fix the problem. The court cannot do so for a number of reasons. First, there is a pattern of failing to allocate appropriate resources for Rio Rancho voters when other areas of Sandoval County do not experience the same problems. Second, while Defendant (Sally) Padilla may have retired, Defendants (Eddie) Gutierrez and (Eileen) Garbagni have not and they refuse to accept the significance of the failures of the 2012 election. Third, while the board has accepted responsibility for and is taking the failure of the 2012 election debacle seriously, the board unfortunately is not in charge of running the 2014 election in Sandoval County.”

Also, the judge emphatically rejected the false attempt to blame Secretary of State Dianna Duran for the mistakes of our clerk and Election Bureau. From page 16 : “… it is clear from the testimony in this case that the Secretary of State’s Office provided Sandoval County with exactly as many voting machines and related equipment as requested by Sandoval County. … Accordingly, there is no merit to the argument or suggestion that Defendant Duran in any way contributed to the 2012 general election debacle in Rio Rancho.”

The clerk’s appeal of the judge’s decision adds insult to injury. I was surprised by an article in a recent RioWest edition that implied I might support the clerk’s appeal. I do not support any appeal of the judge’s well-reasoned decision.

My statement to the reporter was that the polling places for the November election (were) set and could not be changed by the clerk without a court order. In light of past performance by the clerk’s office, I believe this was an important message to reassure Rio Rancho voters that the voting locations wouldn’t be changed.

It is past time that all residents of Sandoval County had a reasonable opportunity to cast a ballot for the candidates of their choice. Judge Johnson’s order is a huge step in that regard and the appeal should be withdrawn.

Home » Opinion » Guest Columns » Let judge’s 2012 election decision stand

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