By Jim Scarantino | New Mexico Watchdog
The canvasser for Martin Heinrich for U.S. Senate stood at my door. He asked if “Jennifer Wangler” was home.
“No one by that name lives here,” I told him.
“She’s registered as a Democrat to vote from this address,” the Heinrich canvasser insisted.
“Never heard of her,” I replied.
He showed me his clipboard, with a printout of the Democratic voters on our street. There she was, a complete stranger, registered to vote from our home address.
My wife and I have lived in the same house for 22 years. No one has resided with us except for some wonderful cats, none of which we have ever registered to vote. The previous owner lived in Pennsylvania and rented this property to a couple of English emigres whom we know. They are not named “Wangler.”
I called the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Officeto report this situation. I was told I would have to go to court to get it cleared up.
That couldn’t be right. That’s a crazy way to deal with voter fraud. How many individual citizens will take it upon themselves to draft and file a lawsuit and see it through, or pay a lawyer do it for them, just to remove from the voter rolls a person wrongfully registered at their home? Not too many, including me, a former attorney at that.
In that prior life, I had handled a challenge to Albuquerque’s voter identification law. I argued that the law was riddled with holes, giving election judges unfettered discretion, and irrationally failed to require any identification of persons who could more profitably commit voter fraud from the comfort of their home using absentee ballots. We won the case in the U.S. District Court. I was entering retirement from my legal career just as the judgment was announced. A big downtown Albuquerque law firm lost the appeal and Albuquerque’s voter ID law stands as written to this day.
None of the voter ID laws on the books slowed down Wangler … or should I say “Jennifer Elizabeth Wangler,” Democrat, age 38, with a Hotmail account and a telephone number bearing an Alberta, Canada area code.
In fraud’s footsteps
I went personally to the office of the Bernalillo County clerk. A helpful election coordinator pulled Wangler’s registration for me, minus the Social Security number and date of birth, redacted as required by law.
I learned from this staffer that Wangler had registered in person in the clerk’s office just a month before the 2008 presidential election. She was registered by a temporary worker and applied for an absentee ballot. Wangler provided not only our street address but also the correct ZIP code. No data entry errors here. She prepared her lies.
I called that Alberta, Canada, phone number. Not working, if it ever was. An e-mail to Wangler’s Hotmail account has not been answered. I won’t hold my breath.
Why would anyone go to this much trouble for such a low-return crime? How did our home address get picked from the tens of thousands of other residences?
It makes no more sense than the case of Rosemary McGee, of Albuquerque, whose vote was stolen in the 2004 presidential election. That incident made national news and provided ammo to many of the arguments for stronger voter ID laws.
Here’s what happened: Someone walked into McGee’s Northeast Heights polling place at 7 a.m., hours before her decades-long habit of voting mid-afternoon. The impostor signed McGee’s name and voted in her place. When she went to vote later that day, McGee was turned away because the records showed she had cast her vote. A grand total of one vote was stolen at a very high risk to the criminal. The fake voter was never identified.
Fortunately, the person who committed registration fraud using my home address has not yet voted in New Mexico.
This Wangler person never submitted the absentee ballot application. That would have been a dumb plan. The absentee ballot coming through our mail slot would have alerted us that some mischief was afoot.
But she could have walked into a polling place and voted, using an ID that gave a completely different address or none at all. The photo ID regulation does not require the address on the voter rolls to match the ID presented.
New Mexico law actually permits a person to vote without any identification whatsoever. They need only verbally state their name, date of birth and registration address, assertions of fact that are never verified.
Since Wangler’s name is on the rolls, she can step into a voting booth in November and vote like the rest of us, even though what she would be doing so illegally.
I can only speculate why this person committed a crime to register to vote, but never took it further than that. Maybe she chickened out. Maybe she was put up to it by someone on the street handing out money to transients, and she left town as soon as she felt money in her pocket. Who knows? But the fact remains she has the ability to vote in this state, an ability obtained only by breaking the law.
So what, I asked the staff of the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office, can be done to remove Jennifer Elizabeth Wangler from the voter rolls? Answer: nothing.
That was an eye opener. I thought that the Bernalillo County clerk could take some action, but even with proof, the clerk still has no power to act.
Nor is there anything that I can do. Contrary to the initial information I was given over the phone, I cannot go to court to remedy the situation. The Bernalillo County Clerk’s staff provided me with New Mexico Statute 1-4-24, which governs cancellation of voter registrations. Under that law, Wangler alone has the right to remove herself from the voter rolls. Go figure.
But that law does empower somebody to act. Wangler could be removed at the Board of Registration — except for one problem. Former Secretary of State Mary Herrera failed during her four years in office to perform the predicate duties to allow the Board of Registration to do its job.
As Rob Nikolewski of Capitol Report New Mexico revealed in November 2011, due to Herrera’s incompetence or intentional neglect of her duties, the U.S. Department of Justice has informed current Secretary of State Dianna Duran that any purge of ineligible voters cannot be performed until 2015.
Duran is abiding by those instructions.
Duran has reported that the state’s voter rolls contain 100,000 to 150,000 ineligible voters. Add to the list someone named Jennifer Elizabeth Wangler.
‘And there’s not a darn thing anybody can do about it.’
That was the original ending for this story.
But then I found New Mexico Statute 1-4-22. It gives the Secretary of State the power to petition a court to remove from the voting rolls people who are not qualified to be electors where they are registered.
I went back and read the DOJ’s letter to Duran. It only tells her not to remove anyone from the voter rolls solely on the belief that that person has moved from the address where they registered.
If Duran wants to, she can petition courts to remove people like Wangler and anyone else who is not a qualified elector in the precinct where they are registered.
Never give up. I placed a call to the Secretary of State’s Office. They said they would get back to me as soon as they complete canvassing the results from the June primary election. Stay tuned.