Sunday, November 27, 2022

House Oversight investigating New Mexico ‘audit force’

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The House Oversight Committee is launching an investigation right into a partisan poll assessment in Otero County, New Mexico, the place a self-proclaimed “audit force” goes door to door and questioning voters.

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The county, which borders Texas and has about 67,000 residents, agreed this yr to pay almost $50,000 to EchoMail, one of many subcontractors concerned in Arizona’s partisan poll assessment, to assessment its 2020 election outcomes.

“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,” House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the chairman of the subcommittee on civil rights and civil liberties, wrote in a Wednesday letter addressed to V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai, the founding father of EchoMail.

Ayyadurai, who participated in Arizona’s discredited poll assessment, has commonly superior conspiracy theories concerning the 2020 election, in addition to his personal 2020 loss in a Massachusetts Senate main, regardless of no proof of widespread voter fraud wherever within the U.S.

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Ayyadurai’s firm agreed this yr to look at poll pictures in Otero County, consider voter signatures and oversee a door-to-door canvass of voters performed by volunteers often called the New Mexico Audit Force to find out the accuracy of the county voter rolls, in line with EchoMail contract supplies posted on-line by the county commissioners who authorized the deal.

Former President Donald Trump received Otero County by greater than 25 proportion factors within the final election.

In its letter to Ayyadurai, the House panel mentioned, “The canvas may have a particular impact on minority communities in Otero County,” noting that 40 % of the county’s residents are nonwhite Hispanic.

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“Otero County’s diversity makes it susceptible to the same threat identified by DOJ in Maricopa County—that canvasses of this nature, even when sponsored by local governments, can result in intimidation directed at minority voters.”

The poll assessment in Otero County is much like the one Arizona Senate Republicans orchestrated in Maricopa County final yr. Maricopa County’s in-person canvass of voters was ultimately canceled after the Justice Department raised considerations that it might violate civil rights legal guidelines to forestall voter intimidation.

The House Oversight Committee referred its considerations concerning the Otero County poll assessment to the Justice Department in a second letter Wednesday to Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division.

The committee requested EchoMail to supply paperwork and communications concerning the poll assessment and canvass, with a give attention to the operation’s insurance policies, procedures and funding, by March 31.

“The reports coming out of New Mexico of EchoMail’s canvassers harassing and intimidating people on their own property in the name of a sham ‘audit’ are truly disturbing. I urge the Department of Justice to review potential ongoing civil rights violations arising from this so-called audit, and I look forward to uncovering the full scope of EchoMail’s actions,” Maloney mentioned in a press release shared with NBC News.

NBC News has requested EchoMail for touch upon the assessment.

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver mentioned not less than 20 complaints have been lodged along with her workplace over the canvass operation and that greater than twice as many have been filed with the state legal professional common’s workplace.

“They’re being asked very personal questions about their marital status, personal, private information that the public doesn’t have access to, how they voted — which literally nobody but the voter can or should know unless they want to share that information,” Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, said Wednesday. “It can have a very intimidating effect.”

Reviewing the county’s election results is “completely unnecessary,” she said, noting that the state already conducts “three levels of audits,” together with a post-election audit that samples precincts from throughout the state to confirm outcomes.

One of Otero County’s precincts was included in that audit, she said.

Toulouse Oliver and state Attorney General Hector Balderas issued an “advisory” this month warning voters that a few of the 60 canvassers have been falsely purporting to be representatives of the county. The state officers knowledgeable voters that they don’t have to reply questions from the canvassers.

Otero County’s three commissioners, all of whom are Republicans, later urged the canvassers to clearly identify themselves and wear nametags. But they also defended the ballot review.

“The intent of the audit is to restore trust, faith, and confidence in the integrity of our elections,” the GOP commissioners said in a news release. “Election integrity is a non-partisan issue.”

None of the commissioners responded to requests for comment about the review.

One of the commissioners, Couy Griffin, is scheduled to stand trial next week on misdemeanor charges in connection with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Leaders of the New Mexico Audit Force, a volunteer group organized on Telegram, according to the House letter, appear to believe fraud occurred in the 2020 election.

One of the group’s leaders, David Clements, was reported to have given a speech about the review. “I want arrests, I want prosecutions, I want firing squads,” he said, according to The Daily Beast.

Clements did not respond to a request for comment sent to his wife, Erin Clements, another group leader.

Toulouse Oliver said the New Mexico Audit Force has pitched its services to at least one other county in the state, Sandoval County, and appears to be seeking to expand its operation.

She also raised questions about whether the group leaders were being paid for their canvassing.

EchoMail’s supplies say elements of the work will likely be “funded by EchoMail’s partners.” In Maricopa County, the now-defunct Cyber Ninjas have been paid with some taxpayer {dollars} however received the majority of their funding from exterior teams.

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