The Secretary of State’s Office has identified two foreign nationals registered to vote in New Mexico — and one of the two has “voted in almost every state, federal and local election in his precinct since 1998.”
But Secretary of State Dianna Duran, in a Nov. 3 letter to Attorney General Gary King, also stresses that the two foreign nationals, both of whom were in the country legally, did not intentionally violate election codes.
And some critics question why Duran, after eight months of investigation into irregularities in the state’s master list of New Mexico voters that turned up only two alleged instances of criminal wrongdoing, still feels there is an integrity problem in the election system.
Duran wrote to the attorney general that the two people, who were not identified, had registered after other people pressured them to do so. Both voluntarily came forward to election officials when they realized they were not eligible to vote and found that the registration interfered with the process for them to obtain citizenship, she said.
Duran appeared to advocate for leniency for the man who voted repeatedly in past elections.
“Based upon his statements and his voluntary visit to attempt to address the violation of the law, it does not appear this man intended to violate the election code,” Duran said in the letter. “However, the statute requires me to report potential violations to (the attorney general) or a district attorney.”
The second noncitizen who was registered, a woman, never voted.
The letter is the latest development in an inquiry Duran has undertaken regarding the state’s 1.1 million-name file of registered voters.
Duran disclosed the investigation in March, claiming there were as many as 37 people who had obtained driver’s licenses with foreign national credentials who later registered to vote and that the election system had been compromised.
She later said her office had potentially found 64,000 irregularities in the voter file. Almost all of the irregularities, she has said, are likely clerical mistakes, but her office hasn’t discounted fraud.
The investigation is ongoing.
Steven Robert Allen, executive director of Common Cause, a nonprofit organization for government accountability, said Duran has been conducting a “witch hunt,” looking for fraud in New Mexico elections that doesn’t exist.
The fact that Duran’s attempts to clean up the voter file have yielded only two cases of illegitimate registrations thus far, and only one actually voted, supports those who say widespread voter fraud is a myth, Allen said.
“This guy is literally one in a million,” Allen said. “It’s hard to imagine clearer evidence that the election administration process in New Mexico is working well.”
Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver said that clerks are at a disadvantage when foreign nationals who are in the country legally register to vote because they have Social Security numbers. Illegal immigrants can be spotted by clerk’s office officials because they do not have a Social Security number, she said.
“I am not in the belief that this is a widespread issue,” she said, referring to noncitizens registering to vote. “It’s a relatively isolated thing,” she said.