Last week, the New Mexico Republican Party publicly wrongfully claimed that 28 people cast fraudulent votes in the June Democratic primary in House District 13. State Republican Party officials said a review of 92 newly registered voters in the district turned up 28 ballots that had inaccurate social security numbers and wrong birth dates. In other words, GOP officials said, this was a clear case of voter fraud.
At the center of these allegations is
According to an Associated Press report, FBI agents had met with
Two years ago,
However, it has since emerged that the organization played a major role in suppressing the votes of people who intended to cast ballots for Democrats in various states.
About a week after the 2006 midterm elections, Rogers sent Rumaldo Armijo, the Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Mexico in charge of election issues, an urgent email, claiming he received an anonymous telephone call at his law office from a male “with a slight Hispanic accent” who said he was a Bernalillo County election worker “and during the counting process this week, had “added some votes for Heather.”
At the time
“He did not want to provide any information by phone, and asked that we meet,”
“After he hung up, I called our IT dept and was told we cannot trace calls/numbers. No one approached me at the
Two days after his first email to Armijo, Rogers sent him another note.
“I did not hear from any FBI agent, and would again urge the immediate investigation of the allegation,” Rogers wrote in a Nov. 13, 2006 email. “I am available at and would request you forward the e-mail to the FBI agents and any additional appropriate offices or individuals.”
Iglesias said “no case was ever filed as a result of Pat’s "referral.”
But Rogers continued to press his case. He took his complaints to the Bernalillo County attorney’s office and called for an investigation.
However, the investigation never got off the ground because Rogers’ claims could not be substantiated.
Wilson was reelected by a margin of 861 votes out of more than 211,000 ballots that were cast.
Some local New Mexico election and law enforcement officials believed Rogers’ allegations that Wilson’s vote tally was padded was an attempt to get federal investigators to call into question the veracity of ballots cast for Madrid while votes were being counted and the race was still up in the air.
Rogers appears to be raising the same issues again with regard to claims of voter fraud during the June Democratic primary of the Albuquerque State House District.
Furthermore, Rogers and other state GOP officials have targeted the grassroots organization Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), claiming the group has been engaged in a widespread voter registration fraud scheme in the state.
Trying to salvage his campaign, John McCain has jumped into the ACORN case, too, citing it at the third presidential debate. He declared ACORN “is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy."
However, the investigations launched against ACORN have raised other concerns, especially that Republicans are flogging this issue in an effort to stir up anger, to revive McCain’s campaign, and to intimidate new voters.
For its part, ACORN has insisted that its own quality control flagged many of the suspicious registration forms before they were submitted to state officials and that state laws often require outside registration groups to submit all forms regardless of obvious problems.
Independent studies also have shown that phony registrations rarely result in illegally cast ballots because there are so many other safeguards built into the system.
For instance, from October 2002 to September 2005, a total of 70 people were convicted for federal election related crimes, according to figures compiled by the New York Times last year. Only 18 of those were for ineligible voting.
According to an official at the New Mexico U.S. Attorneys office, GOP operatives pressured state officials to contact the FBI about the alleged fraudulent ballots and to probe ACORN.
On Wednesday, the website TPMMuckraker.com contacted Oliver, the Bernalillo County clerk, to follow up on her meeting with the FBI.
“Toulouse Oliver added a bit of detail to that picture. She said she had passed on redacted copies of the suspicious forms (many of which had badly mismatched information, or listed addresses that did not exist) to the offices of the District Attorney and the US Attorney in the area,” TPMMuckraker reported. “When the FBI contacted her, it said it had been asked to follow up by the US Attorney’ office. And the meeting between Toulouse Oliver and an FBI agent was also attended by an Assistant US Attorney.
Federal investigative guidelines strongly discourage election-related probes before ballots are cast because of the likelihood that the inquiries will become politicized and might influence the election outcomes.
“In most cases, voters should not be interviewed, or other voter-related investigation done, until after the election is over,” according to the Justice Department’s guidelines for election offenses as revised in May 2007 during Gonzales’s tenure as Attorney General.
In a brief interview Wednesday, Iglesias, the former New Mexico U.S. Attorney who was fired as part of the White House-driven federal prosecutor purge in 2006, said he doesn’t know “who lit the fire under the [New Mexico] FBI regarding alleged voter fraud.”
Iglesias said he was surprised that the FBI would have agreed to investigate ACORN now and that the inquiry must have received a green light from high levels of the Justice Department.
Iglesias said that in September 2004, he set up an election fraud task force, to investigate allegations that ACORN was involved in voter registration fraud.
“The FBI in [New Mexico] was skittish when I raised the voter fraud task force that I formed back in 2004 because the SAC [Special Agent in Charge} said the FBI General Counsel said such investigations were discouraged due to the appearance of being too ‘political,’" Iglesias said.
“I had to twist their arms for them to get involved and only after I assured them that no prosecutions would be filed before the election. … I wonder why the FBI went from being skittish back in 2004 to being forward leaning now. Who is pressuring them and why?"
Rogers and other GOP officials claim ACORN has turned Bernalillo County into a hotbed of voter fraud and voter registration fraud.
The allegations first surfaced in 2004, when Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White showed up at the county clerk's office demanding to know if there were any questionable voter registrations on file.
Mary Herrera, the Bernalillo County clerk, told White that there were about 3,000 or so forms that were either incomplete or incorrectly filled out.
Bernalillo County had been the target of a massive grassroots effort by the group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) to register voters, which paid off with about 65,000 newly registered voters.
But Sheriff White intended to challenge the integrity of some of the names on the voter registration rolls.
White seized upon the registration forms as evidence that ACORN submitted fraudulent registration forms. He held a press conference along with other Republican officials in the county to call attention to the matter.
White pushed Iglesias to crack down on Democratic-backed voter registration drives.
Iglesias established an election fraud task force in September 2004 and spent more than two months probing claims of widespread voter fraud in his state.
"After examining the evidence, and in conjunction with the Justice Department Election Crimes Unit and the FBI, I could not find any cases I could prosecute beyond a reasonable doubt," Iglesias said. "Accordingly, I did not authorize any voter fraud related prosecutions."
White was upset with Iglesias’s inaction against Democratic-back voter registration drives and other criminal issues. He took his complaints about Iglesias’s lack of aggressiveness to Washington.
In a little-noticed article in the Albuquerque Journal at the height of the U.S. Attorney scandal, White, who was New Mexico chairman of the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign, confirmed that in spring 2006, he took his “complaints directly to the Department of Justice where he met with Attorney General [Alberto] Gonzales’ chief of staff, Kyle Sampson and others," the Albuquerque Journal reported on April 15, 2007.
White is now campaigning for the congressional seat being vacated by Rogers’ former client, Rep. Heather Wilson.
Rogers and White, the Bernalillo County Sheriff, are longtime friends. Rogers worked closely with White in 2004 to challenge the veracity of voter registrations in the county.
They also have something else in common: They were both implicated in Iglesias’s firing. New Mexico’s Republican Senator, Pete Domenici, had recommended Rogers to replace Iglesias as U.S. Attorney when Iglesias was fired. The DOJ report said Domenici played a major role in Iglesias’s ouster.
According to a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, "Patrick Rogers, the former general counsel to the New Mexico state Republican Party and a party activist, continued [before the 2006 election] to complain about voter fraud issues in New Mexico.
"In a March 2006 e-mail forwarded to [Craig] Donsanto in the [Justice Department's] Public Integrity Section, Rogers complained about voter fraud in New Mexico and added, ‘I have calls in, to the USA [U.S. Attorney] and his main assistant, but they were not much help during the ACORN fraudulent registration debacle last election.”
Donsanto was the author of the updated May 2007 Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses manual that softened the warnings about investigating and prosecuting voter fraud cases before an election.
In June 2006, Rogers sent Iglesias’s Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Rumaldo Armijo an e-mail:
“The voter fraud wars continue. Any indictment of the Acorn woman would be appreciated. . . . The ACLU/Wortheim [sic] democrats will turn to the camera and suggest fraud is not an issue, because the USA would have done something by now. Carpe Diem!”
John Wertheim was then chairman of the New Mexico Democratic Party.
Iglesias said he now believes GOP claims of voter fraud have been “unique to the Bush administration.”
“If voter fraud is such a problem nationally, why have there only been a handful of prosecutions in the past few years?” he said.
Rogers told The Public Record the Justice Department report on the U.S. Attorney firings “is erroneous is so many ways it is not possible to address them all."