Did New Mexico GOP Lawyer Hire P.I. To Intimidate Minority Voters?

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Minority voters in New Mexico report to TPMmuckraker that a private investigator working with Republican party lawyer Pat Rogers has appeared in person at the homes of their family members, intimidating and confusing them about their right to vote in the general election.

Earlier this week, we reported that Rogers — a lawyer and state committeeman for the GOP, who in previous elections worked closely with the party in pressuring New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to pursue bogus voter fraud cases — is involved with a new effort to gin up concerns about the issue. Last week the state party falsely claimed that 28 people had voted fraudulently in a local Democratic primary race in June. Rogers, described in an Associated Press report on the allegations as “an attorney who advises the state GOP,” told the news wire that the party planned to turn the suspect forms over to law enforcement authorities.

The visits to minority voters by the P.I. appear to be connected to last week’s effort.

The story starts last week, when several representatives of the New Mexico Republican party, including Rogers, held a press conference to announce that 28 people had voted fraudulently in a Democratic primary in June in Bernalillo county, which contains Albuquerque. The party released the names of ten of these people — almost all of whom are Hispanic.

The allegations quickly fell apart. ACORN announced that it had contacted the county clerk’s office, who had verified that all of the voters were in fact legitimate. The group now says it has independently contacted 8 of these 10 voters to separately verify their validity.

At that point, the national GOP, which had at first jumped on the story as rare evidence of genuine voter fraud, seemed to quietly back off.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

Guadalupe Bojorquez, who works in law enforcement in Albuquerque, told TPMmuckraker today that her mother, Dora Escobedo, was one of the ten voters whose names were released by the GOP. After this happened, said Bojorquez, her mother had been contacted by the voter registration group ACORN. Bojorquez, with ACORN’s help, confirmed with the county clerk that her mother, who does not speak English, is indeed eligible to vote, and had been when she voted in June.

Nonetheless, Bojorquez said that her mother yesterday received a visit from a man who asked for her personal information, including an ID, in reference to her eligibility to vote. Bojorquez told TPMmuckraker that according to her mother, at one point the man asked what she would do if immigration authorities contacted her.

After Bojorquez’s mother, frightened, refused to let him in the door, the man waited outside her house. Eventually, Bojorquez’s brother arrived at the house, emboldening Bojorquez’s mother to go outside, call Bojorquez, and put her on the phone with the man.

Bojorquez said the man told her he wanted to make sure her mother knew that she shouldn’t be voting, and continued to ask for her mother’s personal information. When Bojorquez said that no information would be handed over unless the man revealed who he was employed by, he said he was a private investigator hired by Pat Rogers. He told Bojorquez his name was Al Romero, and left a number at which Bojorquez could contact him.

Bojorquez added that in fact, her mother has already voted in the general election, by absentee ballot — which she is eligible for because she has trouble walking — so Romero’s efforts on that front were in vain.

Another Albuquerque woman had a similar experience.

Jenais Griego told TPMmuckraker that yesterday, as she arrived home with her kids, a man in a beige Chevy Silverado pulled up, removed a notebook from his pocket, and said he was looking for Emily Garcia. Garcia is Griego’s grandmother — Griego said Garcia, who works as a home care-giver, lists Griego’s address for her mail — and, like Escobedo, was one of the voters named by the GOP last week as having voted fraudulently in June.

Griego said she allowed the man in, and when she asked him for identification, he pulled out a card that gave his name as Al Romero. She said the man had a redacted copy of Garcia’s voter registration form, and asked whether Garcia intended to vote. He said if she intended to do so, she needed to make sure she was properly registered.

As with Bojorquez and Escobedo, Griego said that Garcia had already confirmed after the GOP press conference that she was indeed a valid voter. An ACORN worker had come to her house to explain that the GOP had questioned her registration, and, along with Griego, they had contacted the county clerk to ensure that she could legitimately vote, and had done so in June.

So when Romero asked Griego whether Garcia intended to vote, Griego replied that she did. At that point, said Griego, Romero became “angry” and “upset,” and left abruptly.

Rogers did not return several calls from TPMmuckraker seeking comment. But last week he said that the state party had hired a private investigator in connection with vote fraud.

Reached by TPMmuckraker at the phone number he provided to Bojorquez, Romero said he didn’t have time to talk about the matter. He did not respond to repeated follow-up calls.