Tensions Mount as Voters Head to the Polls
At a “Trump Train” rally on Sunday at the Four Hills Shopping Center on Tramway Blvd. and Central Ave., about 25 to 30 supporters were mingling in groups and loosely social distancing. The conservative demonstration also happened to be in front of a Bernalillo County polling location.
One young and enthusiastic supporter was Justin Brown. He said he was nearby the rally at home and came to show his support for President Trump. Brown said he doesn’t agree with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s health orders and, in fact, felt like it was an infringement on his rights. “I feel like the governor is restricting a lot of people from being able to live happy lives. You know, saying things we can’t do, like go swimming or go to the movie theater. I think that’s a dangerous policy, because you’re not letting people live their life.”
Brown was soon joined by his friend Lorenzo Romero. While half of the supporters were masked, Brown and Romero were not. “The Democrats try to push my body, my choice. I know that’s a women’s area topic, but I feel like that can apply to my body, my choice if I don’t want to wear a mask,” said Brown. “I respect everyone’s opinions on COVID-19, but there’s opinions. I’m not endangering anyone.”
“People are here just trying to support what they believe.” said Romero, regarding the polling location gathering “There’s nothing hostile here, and people are flipping us off and bad mouthing us and there’s no need for that.” The Rambo-touting Trump flag and the dinosaur-riding president banner gave off a different vibe. One woman in a separate group was overheard saying, “You know, this could end up in a civil war. If that’s what that’s called. Maybe an uprising is the better word.”
This comes amid reports from the local chapter of Common Cause, a national voting rights organization, that several Trump supporters were intimidating voters with their rallies in the South Valley. Common Cause New Mexico’s Executive Director Heather Fergueson told the Associated Press the incidents happened last week in predominantly Latino neighborhoods. The group is estimating that several potential voters left after being confronted near the voting convenience centers. Based on witness accounts and recordings, a group of 50 slow-moving, tightly spaced cars interfered with public access as they drove close by a polling location on Central Ave. Ferguson said a poll judge diffused the situation by informing demonstrators of state restrictions on electioneering and interference. State statute prohibits electioneering within 100 ft (30 meters) of a polling location or approaching a voter within 50 ft (15 meters).
According the Associated Press, Bernalillo County is investigating the incidents, but so far has declined to comment.
Corrine Rios, a local Republican organizer, said that she was distributing signs near polling places around the Enchanted Hills polling locations. She says signs have been stolen or vandalized with spray paint. Her husband witnessed signs being stolen near their polling location just after they put them out. He took photos of the woman stealing the signs and her license plate and filed a police report.
“This isn’t intimidation. We’re abiding by the 100-feet rule, nobody is breaking the law by putting up the signs,” said Rios. “This is happening in the middle of the morning in broad daylight just one hour after I put them out. I know this is happening to both parties. Both sides have bad players and broken people.” She says she’s been getting intimidating phone calls and text messages from around the state from people who get her number off her rally flyers. Several of the messages she’s received have been aggressive and threatening. Rios says she has not reported them to the police.
Rios is organizing other voters and has had calls from local candidates who want to participate in multiple Trump rallies on Nov. 3, Election Day, mostly on Albuquerque’s Westside and in Rio Rancho. The primary purpose of the rallies is to make sure that voters are silenced no longer. “People are trying to silence people who don’t agree with them. We wouldn’t be doing this if they hadn’t stolen our signs, but we have no choice. Our voice needs to be heard. Unless someone is breaking the law, we need to be able to voice our opinions.”