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New Mexico election drama has roots inside wider county movement

New Mexico election drama has roots inside wider county movement

SANTA FE, New Mexico (AP) — A rural New Mexico county's initial non-acceptance to certify its main election results sent ripples across the country last week, a symbol of how flat the most elemental functions of democracy have become politicized pressure points amid the swirl of lies stemming from the 2020 presidential outcome.

After the Otero County Commission eventually relented, one question persisted: Why New Mexico, a condition that has not been a political battleground with every one other accompanied by where Joe Biden hit Donald Trump handily set of two years ago?

The seeds of the short-lived election crisis, which ended amid a showdown accompanied by the secretary of condition with every one other accompanied by an order from the New Mexico Supreme Court, had been planted months before, when David Clements, a legal practitioner who has gained prominence inside conservative circles, with every one other accompanied by others began raising conspiracy theories with every one other accompanied by incorrect claims concerning the last presidential election that came to dominate political discussion inside the laboriously Republican county.

But it's not fair Otero County where local election management is inside the crosshairs of conspiracy theorists, with every one other accompanied by it's not fair Clements associated accompanied by inside the effort.

Across the country, supporters with every one other accompanied by allies of former President Donald Trump have been gathering accompanied by local officials — sowing doubts concerning the 2020 election, seeking access to voting apparatus with every one other accompanied by pressing for changes that would upend election management inside their counties. The attempt has led to safety breaches of voting apparatus and, inside New Mexico, chaos surrounding what has historically been a procedure task.

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"You have seen a whole bunch of people — some sincere, some maybe less heartfelt — who have rushed to become full the request to provide proof of the fraud that Trump created," said David Levine, a former election official who is now a fellow accompanied by the Alliance for Securing Democracy.

There was no indeed widespread fraud inside the 2020 presidential election that could have changed the outcome.

Even earlier to the Nov. 3, 2020, election, Trump was telling his supporters that fraud was the only way he could mislay re-election, pointing mostly — with every one other accompanied by lacking proof — to the expansion of mail-in voting throughout the pandemic.

In the months since, there has been no indeed proof to support the claims. They have been dismissed by dozens of judges, by Trump's attorney general at the time, with every one other accompanied by by a coalition of confederate with every one other accompanied by condition election with every one other accompanied by cybersecurity officials who called the 2020 ballot the "most secure" inside U.S. history.

That hasn't stopped the incorrect claims from proliferating, driven by a category of Trump supporters who become visible at numerous of the same events with every one other accompanied by capture accompanied by every one other regularly.

Clements, a former subordinate neighbourhood attorney inside southern New Mexico with every one other accompanied by former work professor at New Mexico State University, has traveled the country speaking accompanied by local management boards, at conservative conventions with every one other accompanied by to house of God groups. He was at the "cybersymposium" last year held by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a answer Trump associate who has sought to demonstrate voting machines were by some means manipulated to good turn Biden.

Clements' well liked communal media feed on Telegram regularly weaves pronouncements concerning democracy accompanied by scripture with every one other accompanied by prayer. It too includes video chats accompanied by the like-minded.

In one video from March, Clements chatted accompanied by Jim Marchant, a Trump loyalist from Nevada who claims elections have lengthy been rigged. Marchant not long ago won the Republican main for secretary of state, Nevada's top elections position. He has been a answer organizer of a category of "America First" candidates this year who either deny the consequence of the 2020 presidential election or go forward the idea that elections inside the U.S. are corrupt.

In the video, Clements with every one other accompanied by Marchant talk over a "county percentage strategy" that involves pressuring local officials to obtain clear of the "cheat" machines so that all ballots are not only cast by hand nevertheless too counted by hand. Election experts speak hand-counting of ballots is not only less correct nevertheless extremely labor-intensive, potentially delaying results by weeks if not months. They too speak it's unneeded since voting apparatus is tested earlier to with every one other accompanied by following elections to build sure ballots are read with every one other accompanied by tallied correctly.

A day earlier, county officials inside Nye County, Nevada, had voted to appeal that the county office employee not use ballot tabulators inside the upcoming November election. The office employee is opposed to the go with every one other accompanied by has decided to give up work following the primary. Marchant was among those urging commissioners to build the move.

"It was the earliest domino to let fall to permit us to obtain spine to fair with every one other accompanied by transparent elections here inside the country," Marchant told Clements. "And we're going to do it accompanied by numerous additional counties just here inside Nevada, with every one other accompanied by hopefully this will encourage others inside other states to do the same thing."

Clements was thrilled concerning the evolution with every one other accompanied by promised to push counties to do the same inside his place of residence condition of New Mexico, where he on one occasion sought the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

"Shouldn't the commissioners protected from danger keeping concerning whether I trust the system or not?" Clements told Marchant. "I deep affection how you fair gash into and not here of all the noise."

This week, Clements is scheduled to become visible at an event inside Louisiana accompanied by Douglas Frank, another Lindell associate who has been traveling the country gathering accompanied by condition with every one other accompanied by local officials. In May 2021, Frank met accompanied by members of the Ohio Secretary of State's Office offering to scrutinize their voting procedures, boasting he's been employed accompanied by county officials inside 22 states.

"You either go nearer onto our team with every one other accompanied by we tin audit it with every one other together accompanied by show that there was no indeed malfeasance, or you tin exist against us," Frank told agency staff, according to an audio recording. The office did not receive the offer.

For months now, Clements has been pushing Republican-leaning counties inside New Mexico to launch partisan reviews of the 2020 election, similar to the much-maligned attempt inside Arizona coordinated by Republicans inside one chamber of the state's legislature. In Otero County, which Trump won by a wide margin, Clements with every one other accompanied by his wife, Erin, have been conducting an casual with every one other accompanied by unpaid analysis of the county's 2020 election procedures.

The consequence has been a series of hourslong presentations to the county percentage concerning unproven vulnerabilities inside vote-tallying machines with every one other accompanied by patterns inside voter registration activity. The Clements, who list Las Cruces while their residence, did not respond to requests for an interview.

Earlier this month, when Otero County commissioners were considering whether to discontinue the use of ballot tabulators, the set of two on one occasion additional made a presentation. It prompted a rebuttal from Otero County Clerk Robyn Holmes.

"There is a a large amount of things they have found, that they are saying, that are not true," Holmes said.

Nonetheless, the commissioners — led by Couy Griffin, co-founder of "Cowboys for Trump," who was convicted of entering restricted U.S. Capitol grounds throughout the Jan. 6 insurrection — voted to place an extremity to using the ballot tabulators earlier to the November election.

Clements was among those urging Otero County commissioners opposed to certification of the June 7 main results, repeating conspiracy theories concerning voting apparatus that trace spine to the days straight away following the 2020 election. Holmes, the clerk, said the main was conducted lacking problems.

Clements too went to Torrance County, another conservative stronghold inside New Mexico, to encourage commissioners to defy authorities with every one other accompanied by decline to certify their main results. During the gathering last Friday, the crowd hurled insults of "traitors" with every one other accompanied by "cowards" at commissioners earlier to they voted — unanimously — to certify the results.

Election officials with every one other accompanied by experts have expressed be about that local certification boards inside other states that are receptive to conspiracy theories surrounding voting machines strength exist inspired to go nearer behind Otero County's example, wreaking havoc accompanied by election results.

Counties inside Nevada have until Friday to sign off on the results of the state's June 14 primary. Nye County commissioners, who want to place an extremity to using ballot tabulators, are scheduled to meet to believe concerning certification on Friday. They have not said publicly what they scheme to do.


Cassidy reported from Atlanta. Associated Press writers Ken Ritter inside Las Vegas; Julie Carr Smyth inside Columbus, Ohio; with every one other accompanied by Scott Sonner inside Reno, Nevada, contributed to this report.

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