New Mexico is in the Washington Post again this week. A couple weeks ago it was about the governor leaving governing to be a substitute teacher. Wednesday, it was all about the self-inflicted circus at the Otero County Commission over the 2020 election.
The Cliff’s Notes version of the story is that after recall-survivor-slash-accused-January-6-rioter Couy Griffin and some well-known conspiracy theorists made some wild, unsubstantiated, and plain goofy assertions regarding the 2020 election in Otero County, the commissioners voted unanimously to hire uber-flaky EchoMail, now famous for their harebrained audit of Maricopa County in Arizona, to conduct a harebrained audit of the Otero County election.
Here’s the thing. Trump carried Otero County by 25 points. There is not a single elected Democrat in Otero County. The county clerk is a Republican. So, what, exactly, needs to be audited?
(I’m not saying voter fraud hasn’t been an issue in the past in New Mexico. But it has not been at the hands of Republican county clerks or Republican candidates.)
At the Commission meeting in January where the audit was approved, the Republican county clerk, Robyn Holmes, attempted to defend the integrity of the election in Otero County, and the validity of the some 23,000 votes cast. She was dismissed out of hand. This should concern every Republican reading this.
Griffin and his crony witnesses quickly consigned Holmes to the vast deep state conspiracy and discussed all the ways bad actors likely hacked into voting machines in Alamogordo, Mescalero, and Cloudcroft. Holmes was being gaslighted. Bluetooth hacking was discussed with seriousness.
Bluetooth hacking is only possible within 30 feet. I don’t know if you have voted in the last century, but I am pretty sure poll watchers and other voters would notice some dude with a laptop keystroking away at a polling site in Tularosa.
(Author’s note. Here’s what voter fraud actually looks like in New Mexico: absentee ballot chicanery; memorizing someone’s address from the phone book and voting in their stead; and my favorite, memorialized in a KOB-TV investigative sting, driving derelicts to the polls and bribing them with booze to vote for your candidate.)
To Griffin, on the lunatic edge of the fringes of conservatism, it doesn’t matter. As long as he is talking, he believes he is convincing people. Often, he is. And Republicans turning on elected Republican election officials over an election overwhelmingly won by Republicans is a matter of grave concern.
You might call it a witch hunt. I prefer the highly technical description, “crazypants.”
State Auditor Brian Colón has responded by launching his own audit of the audit to investigate whether the $50,000 EchoMail effort in Otero County is a valid use of taxpayer dollars. This is a mistake. I understand Colón’s desire to call out reckless government spending and make some statement over the gross overreach of the Otero County Commission.
What Colón has done however, is give the extremists attention. That’s a mistake. Worse, an investigation from a Democratic statewide officeholder gives these nutjobs exactly what they want—perceived persecution. Like Trump claiming false victimhood from would-be prosecutors, Griffin and his co-conspirators can also assert that they are being unfairly treated.
Better to just ignore them.
Griffin’s audit, which will include volunteers canvassing door-to-door asking residents how they voted, will not improve Otero County’s schools or roads. It will not improve services for Otero County residents. It will not change the outcome of any election results. It will propagate unwarranted distrust in proven solid election processes and discredit a Republican county clerk.
Republicans should—must—stand up against attempts like Griffin’s to divide voters and defame honest elected officials. This whack-a-doodle action by the county commission has put every elected official in Otero County in a terrible position going into the 2022 election: Do you support the audit of nothing? Is our county clerk honest? State and county party leaders needed to swiftly repudiate the action.
Take heed, fellow Republicans. The next one the lunatic fringe targets could be you.
Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive and former Navy officer. She appears regularly as a panelist on NM PBS and is a frequent guest on News Radio KKOB. A Republican, she lives amicably with her Democratic husband north of I-40 where they run two head of dog, and two of cat. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.