A legislator on Friday asked Secretary of State Dianna Duran to end a state police investigation of 64,000 registered voters, but Duran said she was duty-bound to continue it. She said the expertise of police investigators would help her office make sure that New Mexico’s voter rolls were updated and accurate.
State Rep. Richard Vigil, D-Ribera, said Duran had mishandled the case by involving police without any evidence that a crime had been committed. “I have a piece of advice for you,” he said to Duran during the end of a three-hour legislative hearing. “Bring those files back from the Department of Public Safety. Hand them to the 33 county clerks” who have expertise in voter registrations and elections.
If the clerks find any evidence of voter fraud, Vigil said, the case should be turned over to the appropriate district attorney for criminal prosecution.
To date, Duran has not asked county clerks to assist in the investigation, said Sheryl Nichols, who is chief deputy clerk of Los Alamos and New Mexico County Clerk affiliate president. Nichols told legislators that state police would uncover no voter fraud. She said clerical errors and other listing mistakes no doubt have occurred on voter rolls, but the clerks stand ready to resolve them so police can concentrate on criminal cases.
Duran, a Republican who took office in January, publicly said in March that her office was investigating at least 37 cases of possible voter fraud. She later turned over those cases and more than 63,000 others to police because she said they needed “further review.”
The police investigation involves about 5 percent of New Mexico’s 1.16 million registered voters.
Duran initially said she forwarded “questionable” cases to police because her responsibility was to make sure that the state database of registered voters was accurate and contained only those eligible to cast ballots.
But on Friday, Duran told legislators that suspicion of voter fraud played no part in her decision to bring police into the investigation. She said one reason for her appearance before the Legislature’s Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee was to “clear up many misunderstandings in the state and in the media.”