SANTA FE, New Mexico (AP) – The initial refusal of a New Mexico provincial province to certify the results of the by-elections caused ripples across the country last week, a symbol of how even the most basic functions of democracy have become politicized. pressure in the midst of the whirlwind lies stemming from the 2020 presidential result.
After the Otero County Committee finally stepped down, a question remained: Why New Mexico, a state that was not a political battleground and where Joe Biden diligently defeated Donald Trump two years ago?
The seeds of the short-lived electoral crisis, which ended amid a confrontation with the foreign minister and a mandate of the New Mexico Supreme Court, were planted months ago when David Clementz, a conservative lawyer, and other conservatives to raise conspiracy theories and false allegations about the recent presidential election that dominated the political debate in the heavy Republican county.
But it is not just Otero County where the local election administration is being targeted by conspiracy theorists, and it is not just Clements who is involved in the effort.
Across the country, supporters and allies of former President Donald Trump have met with local officials – raising doubts about the 2020 election, seeking access to electoral equipment and pushing for changes that would overthrow the electoral administration in their counties. The effort has led to breaches of electoral security and, in New Mexico, chaos around what has historically been a routine task.
“You’ve seen a lot of people — some honest, some perhaps less honest — rushing to meet the requirement to provide evidence of Trump’s fraud,” said David Levin, a former election official who is now an ally of the Alliance. Ensuring Democracy.
There was no widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election that could change the outcome.
Even before the November 3, 2020 election, Trump was telling his supporters that fraud was the only way to lose his re-election, largely indicating – and without evidence – the extension of the postal vote during the pandemic.
In the months that have passed, there is no evidence to support the allegations. They have been fired by dozens of judges, by then-Attorney General Trump and by a coalition of federal and state elections and cyber officials who called the 2020 election the “safest” in U.S. history.
This has not stopped the false allegations from multiplying, led by a group of Trump supporters who appear at many of the same events and regularly interact with each other.
Clements, a former assistant attorney general in southern New Mexico and a former professor of business at New Mexico State University, has traveled the country speaking with local councils, conservative assemblies and church groups. He was at the “cyber symposium” last year hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a key Trump ally who tried to prove that the voting machines were manipulated in some way to favor Biden.
Clements’ popular Telegram social media feed often weaves statements about democracy in writing and prayer. It also includes video chats with like-minded people.
In a video from March, Clemens spoke with Jim Martshad, a Nevada-based Trump ally who claims the election has long been rigged. Marchant recently won the Republican primary for Secretary of State, Nevada’s top constituency. He was the main organizer of a group of “America First” candidates this year who either deny the outcome of the 2020 presidential election or promote the idea that the US election is corrupt.
In the video, Clements and Marchant discuss a “county committee strategy” that involves pressuring local officials to get rid of “rogue” machines so that all ballots are not only cast by hand but also measured by the hand. Election experts say the manual counting of ballots is not only less accurate, but also extremely labor-intensive, potentially delaying results by weeks, if not months. They also say that it is unnecessary because the election equipment is checked before and after the elections to ensure that the ballots are read and recorded correctly.
A day earlier, county officials in Nye County, Nevada, had voted to ask the county official not to use ballots in the upcoming November election. The employee is opposed to the move and decided to retire after the qualifiers. Marchant was among those urging the commissioners to make the move.
“It was the first domino that fell to allow us to return to fair and transparent elections here in the country,” Marchant told Clements. “And we will do it with many more counties here in Nevada, and hopefully this will encourage others in other states to do the same.”
Clemens was thrilled with the development and promised to pressure counties to do the same in his home state of New Mexico, where he once ran for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.
“Shouldn’t the commissioners be interested in whether I trust the system or not?” said Clements to Marchant. “I like the way you cut all the noise.”
This week, Clemens is scheduled to appear at an event in Louisiana with Douglas Frank, another of Lindell’s associates, who was traveling the country meeting with state and local officials. In May 2021, Frank met with members of the Ohio State Department’s office to offer to scrutinize their voting process, boasting that he worked with county officials in 22 states.
“Either you join our team and we can check it together and show that there was no violation, or you can oppose us,” Frank told agency staff, according to a recording. The office did not accept the offer.
For months, Clements has been pushing counties leaning toward Republicans in New Mexico to launch partisan reviews for the 2020 election, similar to the much-anticipated Republican-led effort in Arizona in a state legislature. In Otero County, which Trump won by a wide margin, Clements and his wife, Erin, conducted an informal and unpaid review of the county’s 2020 election process.
The result was a series of hours of presentations to the county committee on unproven vulnerabilities in counting machines and patterns in voter registration activity. The Clements, who cite Las Cruces as their home, did not respond to requests for an interview.
Earlier this month, as Otero County commissioners considered whether they would stop using ballots, the couple made another presentation. This provoked a backlash from Otero County staffer Robyn Holmes.
“There are a lot of things they have found, they say, that are not true,” Holmes said.
However, the commissioners – led by Couy Griffin, co-founder of the Cowboys for Trump, who was convicted of entering confined areas of the US Capitol during the Jan. 6 uprising – voted to stop using the ballots before the November elections.
Clements was among those who urged Otero County commissioners not to certify the June 7 qualifiers, reiterating conspiracy theories about electoral equipment dating back to the days immediately after the 2020 election. qualifiers were conducted without problems.
Clements also went to Torrance County, another conservative stronghold in New Mexico, to urge commissioners to defy the authorities and refuse to certify their primary results. During the meeting last Friday, the crowd hurled insults “traitors” and “cowards” at the commissioners before voting – unanimously – for the certification of the results.
Electoral officials and experts have expressed concern that local certification committees in other states that are receptive to conspiracy theories around polling stations may be inspired to follow Otero County’s example, wreaking havoc on election results.
The counties in Nevada have until Friday to sign the results of the state qualifiers on June 14. Nye County commissioners, who want to stop using ballots, are scheduled to meet to review the certification on Friday. They have not said publicly what they intend to do.
Cassidy reported from Atlanta. Associated Press writers Ken Ritter in Las Vegas. Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio. and Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada, contributed to this exhibition.