Sunday, May 28, 2023

'Vigilante' Auditors In Otero County Are Coming to Your Door

Secretary of State Voices Support for and Concerns about Voter's Rights


"We have private ballots in New Mexico. When you are asked about personal and private information, it can rise to the level of harassment. It's a concern that it's happening at all," said Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver in a press conference discussing concerns over the ongoing 2020 general election audit in Otero County.

On Thursday, Toulouse Oliver and Attorney General Hector Balderas released information that voters in Otero County and New Mexico should be aware of their rights to privacy after problematic reports have emerged as a third-party election “audit” is being conducted in Otero County. The SOS office said that since the beginning of this week, Otero County has reported they've received between 40-50 calls and the SOS has received about 20.

As The Paper. reported last month, the Otero County Commission authorized a controversial 50K “audit” of the 2020 election to be conducted by a third-party organization called New Mexico Audit Force. The software that is being used is EchoMail, which is the same software that was used in the disputed audit by the Cyber Ninjas in Maricopa County, Arizona.

New Mexico Audit Force’s activities involve deploying canvassers to go door-to-door throughout Otero County interrogating voters about their personal information and their participation in the 2020 General Election. In addition to voter concerns of privacy, there is possibly an issue with the NM Audit Force themselves. There is no registered organization or business under that name. The group says that it is fully manned by volunteers, but in the group's public Telegram chat, they also say they use some crowdfunding to help pay for the canvassing.

Bigger Fish

The New Mexico Audit Force is being run by David and Erin Clements. David is a former professor from New Mexico State University who was fired after refusing to follow COVID public health mandates at the university. He also ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014, and lost the Republican primary to Alan Weh. Since being fired from NMSU, he has since spent his time traveling around the country, speaking about "deep state" conspiracies to overtake the government and advocating for local governments to do their own audit of the 2020 general election.

Both Clements run popular Telegram chat rooms, spouting conspiracy theories with followers and updating them on the Otero County audit as well as where they hope the next audit might take place. As recently as February, David Clements's Telegram group name "The Professor's Record," Clements began advocating for gubernatorial candidates. He felt that Jay Block might be the most promising since "he's recently come to life in Sandoval County, trying to open doors for a full forensic audit there."

The Paper. reached out to Commissioner Block, but did not hear back as of press time.

Is the Audit Legal?

The audit isn't an official one, and the SOS maintains that they have their own checks and balances for every election in the state. The SOS and AG say that the canvassing has caught many Otero County residents off guard as they are being approached at their doorsteps by New Mexico Audit Force canvassers who are not employed by Otero County, yet who are claiming to be representatives of the county. According to the Otero County Attorney, these canvassers have not been subjected to any background checks and according to Erin Clements, director of New Mexico Audit Force, when speaking to the Otero County Commission, “We would introduce ourselves as ‘New Mexico Audit Force’ and not mention the county at all.” There are estimated to be about 60 canvassers currently in Otero County. 

Toulouse Oliver reminded voters in Otero County and across New Mexico that they should be aware of their rights regarding the privacy of their ballots and their voter information. Here are some things voters should know about their rights and about voter protections New Mexico already has in place: 

  • Who you vote for on your ballot is secret. No one, not even election administrators, can tell what your ballot choices were in any election.  
  • Through limited publicly-available voter data, it is possible to tell your party affiliation (or lack thereof) and if you voted in a particular election. This data can only be obtained by certain groups, like academic organizations and political parties. The New Mexico Audit Force is not one of these specified groups and has not obtained New Mexico voter data from our office. But, again, your specific ballot choices are always secret. 
  • You are not required (nor can you be compelled) to provide information about who you voted for, why you voted, any personal information, or what your voting experience was like to anyone.  
  • You are not required to participate in this so-called “audit” or provide any information unless you choose to do so. 
  • New Mexico’s county clerks and Secretary of State already have mandatory vote count verification and election audit procedures in place after every election to ensure the accuracy of election results. New Mexico also uses 100% paper ballots in every election and voting machines are never connected to the internet. 

The Secretary of State’s Office and the Office of the Attorney General take reports of voter intimidation and harassment seriously. If you or someone you know has been harassed or intimidated during this ongoing canvassing in Otero County, contact the Office of the Attorney General at 1-844-255-9210 or file a complaint online through the Attorney General’s website.


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