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Friday, February 08, 2008

Obama & Clinton Camps Seek Peaceful Vote Count; Agreement Reached, Plus: Backing Besieged Brian; Supporters Of Dem Chairman Speak Out 

New Mexico already has a national black eye so a sigh of relief greeted news from the insiders that the Obama and Clinton camps have come to an agreement on how to go about counting the over 17,000 provisional ballots still outstanding from Tuesday's Democratic Presidential caucus. We are told that both campaigns agree there must be a "liberal" interpretation of the votes, meaning unless they are obviously illegitimate, they should be counted. There is a laundry list of provisions in the vote-counting agreement. Dems will work hard to make sure the peace holds as it would be yet another PR disaster if the state and nation were subjected to a tug of war between the two leading White House contenders.

Not that it will be easy. The counting of the provisionals--votes cast because a voter showed up at the wrong polling location or because their name was not on the voter registration list--is tedious and time consuming. Tempers are bound to flare and disputes arise. As we blogged Thursday, our experts favor Hillary to take the title. The AP said she held a lead of 1,123 votes--68,654 votes compared with 67,531 for Obama. Every vote deserves to be counted.

INSIDE THE COUNT

(The following is continuing coverage and our third rewrite on the Mora story as more information is developed.)

Why so many provisionals? A combination of factors, say party officials, including voter registration lists that may not have been complete, people showing up who never were registered and voters turning up at the wrong location to vote. One wonders what happened in Mora County where there was only one voting location, but 391 provisional ballots were cast. None of those folks were on the voter registration list and had to be given provisionals? More than half the vote in Mora was cast as provisional votes.

Paula Garcia, chair of the Mora County Dems, e-mailed a news release Friday in response to our query. She said "because of problems with the roster of registered Democrats, 391 voters, an unusually high number, had to vote by provisional ballot. We did the best with the list provided us," She wrote.

Based on the Web site numbers, Mora is reporting a turnout of 40% of its 1,850 registered Dems. Neighborhing counties of Rio Arriba and San Miguel report much lower turnouts. Rio Arriba comes in at 23% and San Miguel also at 23%. Usually the turnout percentage in these counties is similar. Garcia says turnout would have been even higher if the weather had been warmer. Friday night Garcia emailed and said the calculation of the unusually high Dem voter turnout in Mora was the result of a clerical error; that the number of Democrats listed for Mora at the Secretary of State's Web site is incorrect.

"Notice also that there are 1424 (37%) listed as "other." I suspect that the problem with our voter registration list was that people registered as Democrats historically are for some reason recorded as "other" on the current list at the SOS. The number of Democrats should be more around 3000. The list we were provided for our caucus was missing many hundreds of names who should have been listed as Democrats.

If there are 3,000 Mora Democrats as Garcia says, then turnout would be a more normal 25%, not the spike to 40% that caught our eyes and others. There were a couple of northern counties with high turnout. Santa Fe came in with a 43% turnout and Los Alamos at 48% of registered Dems. Both of those counties were worked heavily by the Obama campaign and he carried them. In the preliminary count, Obama lost Mora County to Hillary 221 to 134, with the provisionals remaining to be counted. Why there are so many voters listed as belong to "other" parties for Mora County and not included in the Democrat column could be caused by an incorrect report from the Mora County clerk or a data entry error at the Secretary of State's office.

NM Dem Party executive director Laura Sanchez said the party worked Thursday to beef up its voter registration base to make sure it includes all of the state's 533,000 Dems. The provisional ballots must be matched to that list before they can be counted.

Sanchez, operating under the gun in what has been the week from hell for her and Dem Party chair Brian Colòn, also had to take time to fend off rumors that she was resigning or being fired. "I am here and working and not leaving," she told me.

Also on Friday night the Rio Grande Sun posted a report on the Rio Arriba count which was called into question in some quarters when numbers for the county were not posted Election Night. The report explains the path the vote count took there and why there was so much confusion, but no evidence of hanky-panky.

What a maze through La Politica there is before these provisional ballots are counted.

DON'T HANG HIM!

The furor over the slow vote count and the long lines that developed on Caucus Day, especially in Rio Rancho, has the political mob calling for a head to roll. Friends of Colòn responded to our e-mail box Thursday after we published furious reaction to his leadership of the caucus. Here is a sample.

Santa Fe attorney Geno Zamora:

Brian is an active and committed Democrat who is a good soldier for our party, I commend him for not shirking responsibility. Brian has sacrificed personal income and considerable family time to serve our state-sacrifices that few are willing to make... I support him and anyone that demonstrates such dedication to furthering Democratic ideals..."


Dem David Daily:

...It was the responsibility of the individual county party officials to make the determination of how their county's caucus would run. Let's not forget that this effort was conducted by volunteers and that the greatest majority of the sites ran smoothly and efficiently. I find it despicable that Brian is being used as a scapegoat

Hilary Noskin:

There are a lot of people spitting out blame, but maybe some of those people should volunteer to be part of a solution instead of just whining…


Thomas Rymsza ward 30A chair, ABQ:

We processed almost 1200 voters in seven hours. We also processed 138 provisional ballots. I had a great team of volunteers, and the mood at our location was very upbeat and positive...I will be a vocal supporter of doing away with this caucus process at the next State Central Committee meeting. It is a ton of work to lay on volunteers, and results in an embarrassing portrayal of our party and state.

BLAMING BILL

Governor Richardson said Thursday there should be a reassessment of whether NM should continue to hold a presidential caucus in early February so it can have more influence in the Dem presidential nominating process, or return to the traditional June primary. He has disavowed any responsibility for his party's fiasco this week, but everyone isn't cutting him slack.

Anonymous: In 2004, the caucus had the full strength of the Gov. In 2008, it was an afterthought. A caucus--run correctly--comes with about a $300K price tag. I cannot see anyone-short of the big guy raising that kind of dough in such a short period of time, especially in a state where donors have already been sucked dry...

Counting the provisionals may take up to a week. The deadline to certify is Feb. 15. In the delegate count, the AP says: Clinton and Obama are vying for 26 of New Mexico's 38 delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Twelve so-called super delegates are not bound by caucus results." The wire service says Clinton has 13 NM delegates and Obama has 12 from Tuesday's caucus. We had earlier blogged that the statewide Prez winner would be awarded nine delegates. That is not the case. Of those nine, six are doled out according to the percentage of votes each candidate receives statewide. The other three are selected by the party's State Central Committee. Republicans are much more into winner take all, and after dealing with the Dems byzantine selection process, I can see why.

BACK TO THE MAIL

From Jake Arnold in Rio Arriba County on our description of State Sen. Richard Martinez as a nephew of legendary county political boss Emilio Naranjo:

Joe, Check your genealogy re: state Sen. Richard Martinez being Emilio Naranjo's nephew. Or do you know something that we up here in Rio Arriba don't know? You may be thinking of Rio Arriba county Magistrate Judge Alex Naranjo or lobbyist Nick Naranjo (brother of Alex)--they are Emilio's nephews. Sen. Martinez and the Naranjo boys are, or course, honchos in the faction that inherited remnants of the old Emilio organization..."


Do I know something Rio Arriba doesn't know? Jake, you Alligators in in Rio Arriba have forgotten more politics than I've ever learned.

Your e-mailed news and comments are welcome. This is the home of New Mexico politics.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2008
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