A grand jury on Thursday accused former state Senate candidate Carlos Villanueva of illegally applying for absentee ballots in the names of three dead people in 2014.
In an interview, Villanueva said he didn’t break the law and will plead not guilty.
He was simply testing the election system, he said, to make sure safeguards were in place to prevent people from voting under the names of dead people. Election officials should have flagged the requests and refused to mail the ballots, he said.
“I would never do anything criminal,” Villanueva said. “That is not me.”
When he did receive the ballots, he said, he turned them in to state elections officials rather than try to vote fraudulently. He had found the names of dead people in the Journal‘s obituary section.
“This was strictly to see how it was done,” Villanueva said Thursday.
The idea came about, he said, because he sometimes ran into people who expressed shock that someone had voted in a dead loved one’s name.
Villanueva, a Democrat, is a former Bernalillo County employee.
He ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate in 2012 in a West Side district. Jacob Candelaria, also a Democrat, won the primary race.
The indictment, filed in 2nd Judicial District Court in Albuquerque, alleges Villanueva requested absentee ballots shortly before the 2014 general election, not when he was on the ballot himself.
He faces three counts of unlawful absentee ballot application and three counts of unlawful absentee ballot possession. He also faces charges of perjury and conspiracy to committee forgery.
Villanueva – who’s been involved in a few political disputes involving fellow Democrats – said he believes the charges are politically motivated.