On January 13, the Otero County Commission unanimously approved a contract and services agreement with EchoMail, Inc for $49,750 at the Commission’s regular meeting on to conduct an audit of the 2020 General Election in Otero County. Otero County is a solidly Republican County, with more than 62% of residents voting for Donald Trump in 2020. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the county, yet the commission voted for the audit. Otero County Commissioners have said they are not satisfied with assurances of an accurate midterm election in 2022 by their county clerk or results of the state’s audit.
Otero County Attorney R.B. Nichols objected to the audit at the time saying:
“I have reservations and my recommendation right now would be not proceeding with the audit. … [The New Mexico Elections Code has processes] in place for audits but does not have a procedure for the type of audit this would be. … anything election-related is mandated by the election code … If it’s not in the code, then it is not something that is doable.”
The Otero County Commission accepted a proposal from Echo-Mail, one of the contractors hired by Arizona’s Republican-controlled state senate to review election results in Maricopa County. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver issued a warning about the audit telling area residents to be wary of what she called intrusive questions and potential intimidation by door-to-door canvassers.
EchoMail is the same company that assisted with a chaotic audit in Maricopa County, Arizona. EchoMail, in turn, contracted the “New Mexico Audit Force” or NMAF, a group that is part of the Telegram group that routinely promotes election conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, to knock on Otero County doors and asking people for information about their household and how they voted. The Telegram group pledged that its members would not misrepresent themselves as county employees when they conduct a “canvas” of local voter rolls. Weeks later, state officials say members of the group are misrepresenting themselves as county officials possibly opening the county up to lawsuits. New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver called the group’s efforts a “vigilante audit.”
STATE AUDITOR VOICES “CONCERNS”
State Auditor Brian Colón sent a letter on March 14 to the Otero County commission saying the county is deficient in its ability to properly oversee the contract compliance by EchoMail. Colón’s letter stated that the $49,750 election audit is not in the best interest of residents and amounts to political grandstanding. Colón wrote:
“It appears that the County Commission failed to treat their government position as a public trust and instead used the powers and resources of their public office to waste public resources in pursuit of private interests concerning unsubstantiated claims of widespread election fraud. … [It] appears the County Commissioners may have abused their power in approving the County’s contract with the vendor for an ‘election audit’ that was not in the best interests of constituents and seemingly purely political grandstanding. The stated purpose and methodology of the ‘audit’ gives the appearance of the entire affair simply being a careless and extravagant waste of public funds, which does not appear to serve any useful purpose to the taxpayers of Otero County. … [A]additional concerns … suggest that … volunteer canvassers at the direction of the contractor are falsely representing themselves as employed by the County. … The [Office of the State Auditor] has concerns of potential liability for the County in connection with alleged civil rights violations of its citizens.”
UNITES STATES CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE LOOKING INTO OTERO COUNTY AUDIT
On March 16, it was reported that a United State Congressional Oversight committee has opened an investigation into the Otero County Commissions 2020 election audit. The House Oversight Committee issued a letter to the head of EchoMail requesting the company to produce documents and information regarding its forensic audit in Otero County and has until March 31 to respond to its letter and hand over the documents requested in the New Mexico probe.
The committee said it is looking into potential intimidation by volunteers who are going door to door canvassing voters in Otero County and asking intrusive questions. According to news reports, the voter canvass is already underway and more than 60 Otero County residents have contacted state and local officials expressing concerns about interactions with the canvassers.
The announcement of the US Congressional Committee’s probe comes weeks after Democrat New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said that many Otero County residents have been caught off guard and intimidated when approached by canvassers who are affiliated with the New Mexico Audit Force group and claiming in some instances to be county employees.
EchoMail was one of the contractors hired by Republican Arizona state lawmakers to review the 2020 election in Maricopa County and provide a report on ballot envelope images. The ended in without producing any proof to support Trump’s false claims of a stolen election. Maricopa County election officials election found that nearly every finding by the contractors included faulty analysis, inaccurate claims, misleading conclusions and a lack of understanding of federal and state election laws.
The House Oversight Committee said in the letter to EchoMail:
“The Committee is investigating whether your company’s audit and canvass in New Mexico illegally interferes with Americans’ right to vote by spreading disinformation about elections and intimidating voters.”
The House Oversight Committee said EchoMail has until March 31 to respond to its letter and hand over the documents requested in the New Mexico probe.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The Otero County Commission actions with their bogus audit makes it clear just how sinister Republicans have become spreading the “big lie” the elections are rigged and to what extent they will go to. Republicans, such as the Otero County Commission, are not at all interested in free elections and access to the ballot.
What Republicans want is absolute control of the ballot box to ensure that the only votes to be counted are those votes that will ensure any Republicans victory. The Republican County Commission with its audit have bought into the national Republican goal of making sure that only those votes cast for Republican candidates are the votes that are counted.
The powers and authority of the New Mexico Secretary of State and the State Auditor are some what limited to what they can actually do other than write demand letters expressing concern or order audits that are time consuming. Letters and statements issued by the Secretary of State, State Auditor and even the United State House Committee are commendable, but they are the least line offense to protect constitutional rights, civil rights and to protect people from voter intimidation.
Right wing extremist to do not care if their actions are illegal, as is evidenced by what happened in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. “Cowboy’s for Trump” founder and Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin is about to learn with his upcoming federal trial just how serious interfering with constitutionally protected elections is really all about.
Trying to be diplomatic with the likes of right wing conspiracy theorist and right wing politicians who suck off of people’s worst fears to spend taxpayer money gets you no where and no where fast. The New Mexico Attorney General or for that matter the United’s States Attorney for the District of New Mexico should be far more aggressive and should initiate a civil complaint for injunctive relief or file criminal charges for voter intimidation against the Otero County Commission, EchoMail and “New Mexico Audit Force”. Removal of the entire Otero County Commission needs to be the first step.
The link to a related blog article is here:
Republicans Refusing To Accept Defeat; Bogus Election Fraud Claims; Voter Suppression And Invalidating Votes More Important to Republicans Than Ballot Access; UNM 2020 Election Administration And Voter Security Report