Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) board has yet to declare official results for the June 8 election, despite results showing clear winners. The election is under review after conservative candidate Simon T. “Scooter” Haynes contested the results due to perceived irregularities. 

Julia Maccini, another conservative candidate who ran on a slate with Haynes, lost by a similar margin and did not claim any irregularities relating to her loss.

Haynes, a developer who owns a real estate and construction business based in Albuquerque, claims that the election was fraudulent and should be invalidated by the board of directors of MRGCD.

Baca’s campaign manager, Neri Holguin, had a different take. “Alleging voter fraud is a serious allegation and it implies intention. I understand he’s having a hard time coming to terms with capturing only 26% of the vote, but since Trump, it seems, for some people it’s very acceptable when you lose to desperately allege voter fraud,” Holguin said. 

MRGCD Board Member Joaquin Baca, June 8, 2021, Facebook

Haynes told the board that he had three issues that he believed should discredit the election results, the first of which was how his name appeared on early voting ballots. He claimed he had discussed and confirmed with Ernie Marquez, Election Director of Automated Election Services, that his name would appear as Simon T. “Scooter” Haynes on the ballots. Up until June 4, Haynes’ name on early voting ballots was under “Simon T. Haynes.” After a further request by Haynes, his name was changed to Simon T. “Scooter” Haynes” on early voting ballots by June 5. 

“Every single in-person voter until June 5 was presented with the incorrect ballot,” Haynes said. During his campaign, Haynes claimed that he ran his campaign under “Scooter.” Haynes also claimed that he knew of one voter who voted for the wrong candidate because his name did not appear as “Scooter” on the ballot. At the MRGCD meeting, Haynes urged all early votes cast until June 5 to be invalidated.

Reached via phone by The Paper., Marquez confirmed that he had discussed and agreed with Haynes that he would appear on the ballot as Simon T. “Scooter” Haynes. Mail-in ballots and election day ballots were to Haynes’ specifications, says Marquez. However, early voting ballots presented Haynes as Simon T. Haynes without his requested “Scooter.” Marquez acknowledged the mistake. When the mistake was brought to their attention, it was immediately changed to what Haynes had requested, Marquez says. Early voting was open from May 24 to Jun 5.  

Haynes’ second point of contention was that he was given unfair treatment. He claimed that he was not formally invited to the district office on election day to observe the tally of early votes. Baca was present at the post-election tally and Haynes took offense to the “unequal” treatment by the board. “Why were we not provided fair and equal treatment,” he asked the board. Haynes then requested that the whole election be invalidated due to the unfair treatment.  

In his final complaint, Haynes claimed that voters were turned away from voting sites but he did not provide evidence to support this claim. 

Baca, who won the election by a commanding 74 percent, does not expect Haynes’ appeal to affect the results. “I don’t expect the results to change. But by all means, investigate the irregularities,” Baca said. Baca noted that Haynes’ accusations of irregularities in the election are part of a larger national trend that is far more concerning. 

“It feels like it’s becoming common practice for election results to be challenged,” Baca said when asked about the Haynes accusations that the election was fraudulent. “This is not appropriate to say that ‘I think we should throw this all out because I don’t like the results.’ and I think this is just a minor local example.”

Incumbent Joaquin Baca, a hydrologist for the U.S. Forest Service in the Southwest Region, won a commanding victory over Haynes, receiving 74 percent of the vote. According to the MRGCD website, Baca received 1,583 to Haynes 571 votes. However, Haynes claims that several irregularities affected the outcome of the election. “At a time in our country when the integrity of elections is of the utmost concern to many citizens and our country’s commanding impartial and fair elections, the MRGCD Board of Directors election has been fraught with deficiencies,” Haynes told the MRGCD Board. 

Holguin also does not believe that an investigation by the committee into Haynes’ complaints will change the result and hopes that the results will settle any questions about the validity of the election. “I believe the Conservancy District will do it’s due diligence to address his complaints and hopefully it’s enough.”

Once the investigation into these accusations is settled, official results will be announced on June 25, and new board members will be sworn in on June 28. 

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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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