Thursday, December 16, 2004
Recount Advocates Appeal Decision; $1.4 Million Is Due Today
By Andy Lenderman
Journal Politics Writer
SANTA FE Advocates for a statewide recount of the recent presidential election in New Mexico must come up with a deposit of $1.4 million by 10 a.m. today, a state district judge ruled Wednesday.
An attorney for Green Party and Libertarian presidential candidates later Wednesday appealed that decision to the state Supreme Court.
The appeal filed by attorneys for two presidential candidates Green David Cobb and Libertarian Michael Badnarik asks the state's high court to force state election officials to begin an immediate recount.
No court action had been scheduled by late Wednesday.
Recount supporters seek to verify the accuracy of New Mexico's election system and find perceived problems.
Wednesday morning, state District Court Judge Carol Vigil upheld a decision by the state Canvassing Board that if Green and Libertarian Party presidential candidates want a recount, they must put the money up front so taxpayers don't get stuck with a bill.
Vigil, discussing state law with one lawyer, said, "That sounds pretty clear to me that the Canvassing Board was well within their right to make this requirement."
The state Canvassing Board made its decision Tuesday.
"This recount and recheck as defined by law is going forward," said Assistant Attorney General David Thomson, arguing for the state. "The question is, who is going to pay for it?"
Lawyers for Cobb and Badnarik argued they had already satisfied the deposit requirement by giving the Secretary of State's Office a check for more than $114,000.
"I think the judge's decision does not comply with the law," attorney Lowell Finley said after the ruling.
When asked why recount advocates didn't simply pay the $1.4 million, Finley said:
"While they've made every effort to raise money for this proceeding and raise it as quickly as possible, they are not in a position by Thursday morning to put up all of that money."
Finley said recount advocates chose New Mexico because of the closeness of the presidential election, which President Bush won by less than 1 percent, or nearly 6,000 votes.
He also cited what he called serious problems with touch-screen voting machines, the way provisional ballots were handled by local election officials, and "disturbing trends" in the rate of undervoting. An undervote is the difference between the total number of people who voted, and those who voted in the presidential race, for example. Some people voted in local races but not for president.
The state Bureau of Elections director estimates it will cost $1,115,420 to conduct a recount. That includes the cost of issuing summons and paying expenses for 8,054 precinct board members statewide.
Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron asked for a $1.4 million deposit at Tuesday's state Canvassing Board meeting to cover any possible additional expenses, her spokesman Ernest Ortega said.