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County clerk pegs money pitch to voter work

Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal

Just hours after announcing a bipartisan effort to train 250 more voter registrars Tuesday, Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver sent out an email asking for contributions “to support the work we’re doing.”

But the solicitation was from Toulouse Oliver’s political action committee, MaggiePac, and any funds sent in response to the email won’t go to the new county campaign to recruit third-party voter registration agents.

Instead, any money will flow to Toulouse Oliver’s PAC, which she launched this year to support women who run for higher office who are pro-abortion rights, support full equality and will advocate to protect and expand voting rights.

“It was really not intended to be a solicitation of funds for the project,” Toulouse Oliver told the

Journal . “This was my political operation using something that I did in my official capacity and highlighting it, not the other way around.”

Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver speaks to a news conference Tuesday announcing a push for more voter registration agents in the county.(Courtesy Of Bernalillo County)

Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver speaks to a news conference Tuesday announcing a push for more voter registration agents in the county.(Courtesy Of Bernalillo County)

PAC spokesman Alan Packman said the email, which was sent to thousands of people, was intended to highlight Toulouse Oliver’s work in office.

He said the “political email” isn’t anything different from what “we see in our inboxes on a regular basis.”

“It’s very surprising that this raised that kind of questions … because everyone sends emails talking about their accomplishments, their ideas,” he said.

Packman also said he’s sorry if there was any misunderstanding, adding, “Perhaps better words would have been ‘support the work MaggiePAC is doing.’ ”

The email wasn’t sent from any official government email account. Its letterhead said only, “Maggie Toulouse Oliver,” over a background of blue and yellow.

The email mentions the record-low voter turnout last year in New Mexico and around the nation. It goes on to say, “Today is National Voter Registration Day. Chip in $10 to help keep these efforts going.”

Five paragraphs down, the email says, “That’s why earlier this morning, I launched a new, bipartisan effort to recruit voter registration agents in Bernalillo County to help reach out even further into our communities to register new voters and update address information.”

The email goes on to say that such programs have registered nearly 70,000 people.

“If you support the work we’re doing to make voting easier and more accessible, donate $10, $15 or even $30 today, on National Voter Registration Day.”

It is signed, “Sincerely, Maggie.” The first mention of the PAC in the email’s text is at the end, under Toulouse Oliver’s name. It lists the website link

The PAC also is listed as part of the return address at the top of the email, next to the words “Maggie Toulouse Oliver.”

Toulouse Oliver’s work to help increase voter access to the ballot box is being recognized by Common Cause New Mexico on Oct. 10. She, along with Sen. Lisa Torraco, R-Albuquerque, and state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, will be honored with a “Best in Government Award” for their work in helping pass legislation this year to allow full online voter registration.

On Tuesday, National Voter Registration Day, Toulouse Oliver appeared with County Commissioners Art de la Cruz, a Democrat, and Republicans Wayne Johnson and Lonnie C. Talbert at a 10 a.m. news conference announcing the push for more voter registration agents in the community. The aim is to increase voter turnout for next year’s elections.

As part of the recruitment effort, clerk’s office staff and county commissioners will host five public events – one in each district – to train individuals interested in becoming voter registration agents, and will provide general information about voting and elections in Bernalillo County.

Toulouse Oliver said the cost to her office of training new “third-party” voter registration agents is “negligible.”

Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, has served as Bernalillo County Clerk since 2007 and by state law cannot run for a third consecutive term. She lost in a bid to unseat Secretary of State Dianna Duran, a Republican, last year.

According to its website, the MaggiePAC plans to offer up to six “scholarships” per election cycle to candidates who have gone through an endorsement and interview process.

The scholarships will include training sessions with top campaign experts and guidance throughout a campaign.