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New Mexico AG eyes Colfax County clerk for possible election code violations

 COLFAX COUNTY NM — In an emailed statement dated March 24, 2015, from the New Mexico Attorney General’s office it was confirmed “…that we received a complaint regarding possible Colfax County election code violations from The Secretary of State’s Office. The matter is under review.” A complaint alleging balloting issues had been filed with the Secretary of State’s office by Robert Gonzales on January 16, 2015. Gonzales was a write-in candidate for the school board in Colfax County. His wife Eileen Gonzales also filed a complaint on January 30, 2015. The Secretary of State forwarded it to the Attorney General’s office for review after several attempts to bring the balloting issues at the Colfax County Clerk’s office into conformity with the state’s election code. Freda Baca, Colfax County Clerk, has allegedly violated at least three statutes in the New Mexico election code by failing to make ballots available to voters by the start of absentee voting during the January school board elections according to the New Mexico Secretary of State. Absentee voting began last January 12, 2015. In an email from the New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran to Ms. Baca, the Colfax County Clerk has to “immediately come into

compliance” with the law or the situation could escalate the matter to a point where the State’s Attorney General would become involved. The three statutes Baca is alleged to have violated are: §1-22-10(A) NMSA 1978 which states “that if a candidate doesn’t withdraw and is qualified for office then the filing officer will place the name on the ballot for the position specified.” §1-22-10(B)NMSA 1978 states, “Balloting for the school district election shall be prepared by the proper filing officer and printed by the thirtieth day preceding the election.” And §1-22-19(B) NMSA 1978 stating “The provision of the Absent Voter Act [1-6-1 to 1-6-18 NMSA 1978] of the Election Code… apply to absentee voting in school district elections, provided that absentee ballots may be marked in person during regular hours and days of business at the county clerk’s office from 8:00 a.m. on the 25th day preceding the election until five p.m. on the Friday immediately prior to the date of the election. Absentee ballots shall be printed 30 days prior to the date of the election. Provisions may be made by the board in the proclamation for absentee voting by electronic voting machine from 8:00 a.m. on the 20th day preceding an election until five p.m. on the Friday immediately prior to the date of the election.” The email dated January 16, 2015, indicated that compliance involves immediately producing ballots, appointing precinct board members, certifying tabulators, preparing polling places, canvassing and certifying results, and issuing certificates of election to the elected candidates. A failure to take the above actions could result in further violations and “could be construed as willful failure to perform the duties required by the election code.” A flurry of emails between various officials in the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office indicated that authorities became aware of a ballot issue when they were notified by a Colfax County School Board candidate stating that authorized ballots were not available at the clerk’s office. Baca had also failed set up a voting machine in the office for voters to use. A separate letter, dated January 30, 2015, from the school board candidate’s wife, Eileen Gonzales, stated that sample ballots were unavailable. Copies of the sample ballot were then photocopied by January 16, but no voting machine had been set up yet in the clerk’s office. Voters were still casting photocopied sample ballots as late as January 21. On January 22, official ballots arrived at the clerk’s office. They were put into a ballot box as voters used them. No voting machine had been set up as of yet. Ballots are printed by the state and sent to the various county clerks around the state prior to the start of absentee voting. Gonzales also stated that Baca failed to place notification in the local paper alerting voters of the school board election. The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office stated it would release a statement informing the public of the disposition of the referral once a determination has been made. Freda Baca did not respond to phone calls made to her office prior to press time. James Hallinan, Communications Director New Mexico Attorney General’s office 505.660.2216 jhallinan@nmag.gov

Bertha Trujillo

  Bertha Trujillo, 97, from Gardner, Colo., entered her eternal home on Feb. 12, 2024. She was born in Gardner, Colo., on Sept. 30, 1926,

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