Earlier this year the Torrance County Commission learned they lost their authority to canvass elections in favor of “ministerial” duties. They had unknowingly become obligated to rubber stamp the actions of the Clerk, thanks to changes in the election code that occurred back in 2019, effective January 2020. The election code changes buried in House Bill 407 surprised commissioners during a visit on June 13 from the bill’s cosponsor, Daniel Ivey-Soto. House Bill 407 may have another surprise for the Commission. What if the Commission bestowed its canvass powers to another board?
A ”Trojan Horse” within HB 407 allows Commissions to designate the Board of Registration as the new Board of Canvass. The mechanism for this transfer of power occurs via a resolution in any odd numbered year. In 2021 the Commission passed such a resolution proposed by the Clerk for approval.
Public records requests reveal the template for the Clerk’s proposed resolution was provided to her, courtesy of “Vandelay Solutions.”
Vandelay Template for BCC Polling Places Resolution 2021 (All VCC)
The Executive Director of Vandelay Solutions is Daniel Ivey-Soto. He was also the chairman of the Senate Rules committee in 2019 when he cosponsored the legislation responsible for the transfer of election oversight. Ivey-Soto recently stepped down as chairman due to some serious allegations. A leaked document about Ivey-Soto might indicate he was forced to step down, though.
Soon, Torrance County residents might awaken to discover the elected officials from whom they once sought remedies for election grievances will again be helplessly bound by statute. Once again they can attribute the surprise to Daniel Ivey-Soto, and perhaps a little learned helplessness. Whichever the case, the public must now seek redress from the unelected Board of Registration.
Besides being unaccountable to the public, the Board of Registration, doubling as the Board of Canvass, has some undeclared conflicts of interest. In Torrance County, all but three were appointed by the County Clerk as paid members of the Election Board.
2022 General Election Board List
The Board of Registration (doubling as the new Board of Canvass) is appointed by the Commission. The Clerk is designated to serve the Board of Registration as its “secretary”. The Board of Registration, doubling as the Board of Canvass, serves in an unpaid capacity. How can it concurrently serve the Clerk on her Election Board in a paid capacity? How can she concurrently serve the Board of Canvass she selected as their secretary, pursuant to statute?
Statute allows the Board of Canvass to issue a summons to any precinct of the Election Board, “commanding them to forthwith appear and make the necessary corrections or supply omissions” when circumstances require. Will the Board of Canvass issue a summons to a precinct where any Board of Canvass member also served days prior in a paid capacity? How can board members operate in both capacities? Which master do they serve?
The question begs, of all the residents in Torrance County, why were members of the Election Board selected to serve on the Board of Registration? Why would the Commission select individuals with such conflicts? In short, the Commission did not select those members. Records indicate the County Clerk selected the Board of Registration members and requested approval by the Board of Commission.
“And then on my Board of Registrations, I did have to take one member out because when I asked one of them to be on the list she wasn’t an employee. She is now an employee working for “Grants”, so I had to take her out. So, I only have four members right now. Carolann McNeil, Roberta Chavez, Shannon Torok, uhh she’s gonna be an alternate, and Mary Theresa Otero, also an alternate. And I have an even number of two Democrats and two Republicans for that one.”Yvonne Otero speaking to the County Commission on June 23, 2021, Starting at the 2.40 mark of the video below
As we see in the video clip above, the Commission agreed to the resolution, its terms, and the selected members, just as proposed by the Clerk. Who can blame the legislature for relegating the County Commission to ministerial duties when the Commission so readily allowed the Clerk to assume control of the Board of Registration?
The Estancia News reached out to the County Manager, Janice Barela, for comment. She had the following to say in response:
“Please notice that two items are on the agenda for discussion per my request: Board of Registration and Election Boards. No action will be taken during the Special Meeting; however, the Commission may give direction and preparation can be made for a possible action item on the regularly scheduled October 26th Commission Meeting.”Comment from Janice Barela, October 18, 2022
2022.10.20 Admin Special Meeting
A cursory review of other county election boards, boards of registration, and county resolutions revealed a trend among counties since the passage of House Bill 407. Has Daniel Ivey-Soto been visiting other counties in New Mexico as well?
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