Voter suppression rears its ugly head in N.M

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About a month ago news broke that a group of New Mexico Republican functionaries had undertaken training sessions for poll challengers who were being equipped, as the online journal www.Salon.com put it, “with false information about election law that could be used to suppress voting rights” at the Nov. 6 election.

It’s a disturbing story of some dubious political shenanigans right here.

Seems the group even created its very own “poll challenger guide,” whereby its trainee-challengers could discover ways to make voters show their IDs at their polling places and to vote by provisional ballots, contrary to state election law.

The skullduggery was revealed in an undercover video recorded by the non-profit organization ProgressNow New Mexico at a Sept. 26 official training session conducted in Albuquerque. The training session was reportedly conducted by Tea Party activist Pat Morlen, who is the Sandoval County GOP vice chairperson.

Within a week or so, state Attorney General Gary King announced that his office was investigating the affair and “exploring available sanctions against those found guilty of voter suppression tactics.”

“I will not tolerate voter suppression efforts by anyone, period!” King said.

More recently a committee of Congress made it known that it would expand its own voter suppression investigations to include the New Mexico case.

The political parties are permitted to send representatives to various polling places in most states, including New Mexico, on election days. Those representatives may not interfere with voters’ legitimate exercise of their franchise, however, nor are they at liberty to give voters instructions in the voting process that are inconsistent with state law.

Nonetheless, reports of attempts at voter suppression, harassment and intimidation are rampant throughout the United States this election year and are most commonly found in low-income areas where large numbers of minority voters reside.

Just last week, an estimated 150 billboards, whose sponsor would not reveal its identity, had to be taken down in Ohio and Wisconsin due to concerns of voter intimidation. The billboards, which warned of criminal prosecutions for voter fraud, were located in mainly minority sections of cities such as Milwaukee, Cleveland and Columbus.

Also, news out of Harrisonburg in Virginia last week told of a Virginia voter registration supervisor who had been charged with voter registration fraud after being arrested while dumping completed and valid voter registration forms in a trash container outside a local store.

Turned out that the registration supervisor was a paid employee of a firm that had been hired by the Virginia Republican Party to register voters. And the eye-popper in this shady saga is? When the Republican-dominated Virginia State Board of Elections was asked to request the state attorney general to investigate this incident, the elections board reportedly declined to do so.

You have to wonder what brought us to this scandalous point.

It wasn’t all that long ago when, come election time, major political figures of all persuasions made it a point to set partisan passions aside and, almost in unison, encourage voters irrespective of party affiliation to get off their duffs and head to their polling places on election day.

Democracy doesn’t come cheap. We spend a fortune in taxpayer dollars in the name of preserving and protecting it.

The least we can expect is that those who are eligible to vote be allowed to do so without hassle and harassment and suppression by hooligans bent on putting partisan shenanigans ahead of popular sovereignty.