Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

“No Regrets” signs fake ballot certificate

A fake ballot signed by prominent New Mexico Republicans and mailed to the National Archives after the 2020 presidential election came under renewed scrutiny last week.

The odd action came in the shadow of a lawsuit from President Donald Trump’s campaign on the day New Mexico voters gathered at the State Capitol Building in Santa Fe to cast the five New Mexico Electoral College votes to Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris passed for president, barely any attention and vice president.

Alternative ballot papers from New Mexico and six other states were first released by American Oversight and have gained prominence as the US House of Representatives special committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol denounced efforts by Trump supporters investigates undermining Biden’s certification win in multiple states.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, described a similar action by Republicans in that state as “electoral fraud” and referred the case to federal prosecutors while she continued to consider the state’s charges, Ann Arbor News reported.

In this February 26, 2019 file photo, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas speaks during a news conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, also a Democrat, has similarly referred the New Mexico Republican attestation to US Attorney Fred J. Federici.

“Electoral laws are the foundation of our democracy and must be respected,” Balderas said in a statement. “While the review under state law is ongoing, we have escalated this matter to the appropriate federal law enforcement agencies and will provide them with any assistance necessary.”

OnPolitics:The Electoral Count Act, January 6th and the 2020 election

For their part, New Mexico Republicans, including the signers who argued that they may be the legitimate voters, have remained mostly silent. However, one of the signers told Las Cruces Sun-News he had “no regrets at all.”

The state Republican Party did not respond to inquiries about this story.

Undermining the 2020 election

It was December 14, 2020 when Democratic voters cast their ballots after Biden won the New Mexico popular vote by 501,614 votes versus President Donald Trump’s 401,894 votes. The result was approved by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham recorded on a certificate of assessment and filed according to regular procedure.

On the same day, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit over New Mexico’s use of Dropboxes to collect completed ballots, one of a series of public safety measures in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Weeks later, the campaign dropped the matter, but the president continued to make false claims of widespread voter fraud and insisted he was the rightful winner, all evidence – after audits and recounts in several states – to the contrary.

Also on December 14, Republican voters from New Mexico also showed up at the State Capitol and were denied entry, but nonetheless signed their own ballot in support of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

FILE - Vice President Mike Pence chairs a joint session of Congress convening to count Electoral College votes cast in the November election at the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.  , is on the right.  Pence did not bow to extraordinary pressure from President Donald Trump to intervene and led the count consistent with his ceremonial role.  He announced the confirmation of Biden's victory before dawn, hours after a mob of Trump supporters violently looted the building.  (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP, file) ORG XMIT: WX106

The signatories were businessmen Jewll Powdrell and Lupe Garcia; Deborah Maestas, a former state GOP Chair; Rosie Tripp, a former Socorro GOP National Committee member who has held elected office; and Anissa Ford-Tinnin, who signed on to replace oil businessman (and another former leader of the state party) Harvey Yates.

According to the document, the parallel certification “was conducted on the understanding that it might later be determined that we are the duly elected and qualified electors for the President and Vice President of the United States of America from New Mexico.”

The certificate was then signed and filed with the National Archives and Records Administration. However, the claim that the New Mexico election result could be tipped in Trump’s favor was never justified.

“It had no real impact on the electoral vote count,” Alex Curtas, a spokesman for New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, told Sun-News, adding, “They didn’t interfere with the actual authentic college count.” The election went as it should have gone.”

More:New Mexico requires that tied elections be decided by gambling

Weeks later, on Jan. 6, 2021, supporters of the president attacked Congress as it met to close the election after Trump urged them to march to the Capitol during a fiery rally near the White House.

After order was restored and the trial continued, newly sworn Congresswoman Yvette Herrell, a Republican representing southern New Mexico, objected to the confirmation of the election results in favor of Biden from Arizona and Pennsylvania.

US Rep. Yvette Herrell, RN.M., objects to the certification of Pennsylvania Electoral College results for the November 3, 2020 presidential election on the floor of the US House of Representatives in Washington, DC on Thursday, January 7, 2021 .

Herrell’s office did not respond to Sun News inquiries about the GOP election certificates or their afterthoughts on the validity of Biden’s election.

Despite Republican objections in Congress, the election results were confirmed and Biden and Harris were inaugurated on January 20, 2021 in the presence of heightened security at the Capitol and throughout Washington, DC

“No Regrets at All”

Powdrell, a Rio Rancho businessman named as chairman on the Republican ballot, told Sun News he had “no regrets at all” about signing the ballot that day.

It was Powdrell’s first time serving as a presidential elector for his party, and he recalled that after being denied entry to the State Capitol Building, the group signed the instrument in the lobby.

He dismissed the renewed attention to the certificate as “no problem”.

“Now that the election is over, why are we talking about it?” he asked laughing. “How can you undermine an election that has already taken place?”

His intention in signing the certificate was “to say I support the Republican Party,” he said, not to undermine the process.

Rioters stand atop the US Capitol to protest the official election of President-elect Joe Biden January 6, 2021 in Washington DC.

When asked if he accepted Biden’s election victory as genuine, Powdrell first said, “The election was what it was, and unless you have definitive, indisputable, irreversible facts to refute it, it is what it is.”

He then suggested that such evidence might exist but that the courts refused to hear it. The Trump campaign and allies filed lawsuits and requests for intervention in several states and in the US Supreme Court in the weeks following the election. None of the challenges prevailed.

“The courts aren’t going to hear it,” Powdrell said, “so maybe it’s time you put those facts before the public and let the public decide.”

“They have real consequences”

Curtas said the secretary of state’s office supports further investigations into the Republican certificate and said what appeared to be a stunt in December 2020 later became part of a darker picture following Jan. 6 and subsequent revelations about efforts to win Trump’s election tilt, revealed.

“It is precisely these types of actions and the narrative they have maintained that led to the January 6 violence,” Curtas said. “They have real consequences and can really undermine our democratic processes.”

More:A delegation from New Mexico in Washington ponders the January 6 riot in the Capitol

Since the Jan. 6 uprising, Curtas said, “suffrage is very much in the narrative right now, both at the state and federal levels,” including an ambitious package of election proposals that Toulouse Oliver and the governor put to state legislatures for the current one have legislature.

However, he said proposals to address issues such as fake or “alternative” ballot certificates were difficult to define, noting that the efforts did not directly disrupt the electoral process, even if they served to sow doubts in the process.

Algernon D’Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, [email protected] or @AlgernonWrites on Twitter.

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