Dianna Duran, New Mexico’s secretary of State who took office in January, sounded a tad pugnacious in March when she reported that 117 foreign nationals with phony Social Security numbers had registered to vote and 37 had cast ballots in elections. There was, she said, “a culture of corruption” in the state.
Duran, who had ordered her staff to check 1.16 million voter registration records against motor vehicle and Social Security databases, also raised eyebrows by referring 64,000 voter registration records to the state police, citing irregularities.
No one has been charged with a crime, and Duran, a former Republican state senator and county clerk, has since taken fire from Democratic legislators, public interest groups and news organizations that say she has overstated her case, scared voters and withheld proof of her claims.
Duran maintains that she is just doing what she was elected to do. “I am simply adhering to the promise I made to voters all over the state,” she said in an interview.
“My concern is she is creating fear and causing people not to go to the polls and suppressing the vote,” said state Sen. Peter Wirth, a Santa Fe Democrat and co-chairman of the legislative Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee, whose members grilled Duran during a public hearing July 15.
“She wants to clean up the voter rolls — that’s a good thing,” Wirth said. “But using the state police creates a perception of wrongdoing.”
Duran’s disclosures prompted reporters and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico to file open-records requests for details of her investigation. Duran eventually released heavily redacted documents, citing executive privilege for withholding most of the information.