August 20, 2004
Lawsuit Challenges County's Interpretation of Voter I.D. Rule
The Associated Press
Republican Rep. Larry Larranaga and five other people took the secretary of state and the Bernalillo County clerk to court Friday over which first-time voters have to show identification when they register.
Their complaint, filed in state district court here, contends county clerks must ask for proper identification when voters register for the first time.
They want a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction requiring Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron and Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera to stop "efforts to negate" a section of state law dealing with identification for first-time voter registrations.
Vigil-Giron said Friday the requirement, approved last year, applies only to mail-in registrations and talks about a postpaid mail-in format.
Rep. Joe Thompson, R-Albuquerque, one of three attorneys filing the complaint, said, "We want people to be properly identified when they register. That's not happening, and it's not happening on a massive scale."
Larranaga, of Albuquerque, said the situation "threatens to cast a shadow of doubt over the entire election."
Attached to the court filing are memos from Denise Lamb, director of the Bureau of Elections in the secretary of state's office, advising clerks that the identification requirements affect only first-time voters who register by mail.
Chaves County Clerk Dave Kunko of Roswell, a Republican, wrote other county clerks this week that all first-time voters in Chaves County who did not register in his office will be required to prove their identity at their polling places or beforehand.
Lamb advised him that was illegal. In a memo to county clerks, she said it also is contrary to the federal Help America Vote Act.
"This is a federal election, and any procedures that deviate from established law and practice may result in litigation from individuals, political parties or the state or federal government," she wrote.
The others filing the complaint include the Green Party's candidate for county clerk, Steve Cabiedes; Deborah Torza, Republican candidate for House District 16; Carla Gonzales, a Santa Fe County Democrat; Toby Gutierrez, identified as a newly registered voter; and Juan Paul Atencio Jr., not otherwise identified.
The group cited thousands of voter registration irregularities uncovered by Herrera.
Herrera said Tuesday 3,000 voter registration cards in Bernalillo County have problems which make them invalid faulty addresses, no addresses, bad signatures or no Social Security numbers. Some 400 cards were returned by the Postal Service as undeliverable.
Bogus and improperly submitted voter registrations have become a serious problem, particularly with the aggressive voter registration drives now taking place, she said.
"I fear people will show up and not be on the roster, and that will discourage them," she said Friday.