Land commissioner race reaches Supreme Court

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Land commissioner race recount reaches Supreme Court

On Dec. 1, the state Supreme Court granted a petition by Land Commissioner Ray Powell to suspend the scheduled automatic recount of the votes for the land commissioner race.

The Nov. 4 election unofficial results showed Republican Aubrey Dunn with a slight edge over his Democrat opponent.

Dunn’s campaign declared victory, but the results of the race were so close that an automatic recount was triggered under a New Mexico law enacted in 2008.

This happens when the vote margin between two candidates is “less than one-half of one percent of the total votes cast for that office.” Only 704 votes separate Dunn and Powell. This is equivalent to a margin of votes of .14 percent.

On Nov. 25, the state canvassing board met and officially declared that a recount will be conducted Dec. 8 for the land commissioner contest.
Initially, Powell said he was optimistic about the recount. But now he is not so sure.

“It’s been a very confusing process,” Powell said. “We will be going before the Supreme Court on Monday to make an argument of what we feel are the requirements we think were not being followed.”

The current recount order is asking for 100 ballots to be used in each county to test the voting machines.

Powell says this is the wrong procedure. He says the law requires that voting machines are tested with at least 2 percent of the votes cast in each county.
In a county with a large population, 100 ballots would fall below the 2 percent requirement. In a county with a small voting population, 100 ballots would go over the requirement.

Powell said all he is asking is for each county to be counted fairly.

“Our whole democracy is based on one vote per person. Without that we can’t say we have that democracy,” he said. “We need transparency and fairness.”

Powell also said several voters who registered at the motor vehicles department were given provisional ballots but their votes were never counted. The current recount order doesn’t address how these ballots will be handled.

“It’s disturbing watching the system not work very well,” he said. “It’s important that every person knows their vote is counted.”

On Dec. 8, the New Mexico Supreme Court will allow Powell to argue for the counting of the provisional ballots.

But Dunn is not backing down.

He has described the current situation as a legal battle and claimed the Democratic party had hired 40 attorneys to help Powell.

“My opponent in the New Mexico Land Commissioner race, Ray Powell, is doing his very best to overturn the popular vote that elected me on November 4th,” he wrote on his website.

Last Tuesday, Dunn created a Facebook event inviting 466 people to attend the Supreme Court meeting to “show that (their) vote matters.”

“Don’t let 40 attorneys and the Democratic Party sway the Court and rewrite the election’s results,” reads the description of the event.

According to the Santa Fe Reporter, a fundraising email from the Republican Party of New Mexico described what Powell is doing as trying to include “highly questionable” provisional ballots in the recount.

However, Powell denied Dunn’s accusations, especially having hired 40 attorneys.

“That is the most absurd thing I have ever heard. We only have one attorney and she is doing a terrific job,” Powell said. “It seems that he distorted the truth during the campaign and he is still doing it right now.”

Powell said his petition to temporarily suspend the recount is not all about the results. The most important thing, he says, is to ensure the recount is “honest and fair” and that each citizen has his/her vote counted.

“If this happens, no matter what the outcome, we could be proud of the process,” he said.[/text_output][share title=”Share this Post” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” google_plus=”true” linkedin=”true” pinterest=”true”][/vc_column][/vc_row]