The suit, filed in state district court in Albuquerque, says Duran illegally denied the organization’s public records request for documents related to 37 cases of foreign nationals voting in the state alleged by Duran during a committee meeting of this year's regular legislative session. Duran improperly claimed executive privilege in denying the requests for documents, the suit alleges.
“These sorts of hit-and-run allegations are reckless and irresponsible,” ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson said in a news release. “Without offering any proof, the Secretary of State has undermined the public’s confidence in our elections system while hiding the evidence for her claims behind the cloak of executive privilege.”
One of the things claimed in the lawsuit is that the reason Duran turned over approximately 64,000 registered voter records to the state Department of Public Safety was "an effort to convert public records to records not obtainable pursuant to the IPRA."
However, because Duran has since said, in an interview with me, as well as at a recent interim legislative committee hearing, that she wasn't alleging any criminal activity, those records are not exempt from the Inspection of Public Records Act.
The suit also claims the whole SOS/MVD investigation was spurred by an email from Colorado elections director Judd Choate to Duran's office.
The e-mail from Mr. Choate stated that on March 8, 2011, the Colorado Secretary of State would hold a news conference to discuss legislation under consideration in the Colorado House that would allow the Colorado Department of State to spot check and investigate voter registrations for the possibility that non-citizens are 1) currently registered to vote, 2) are being accidentally registered to vote, or 3) are willfully seeking to register in violation of both state and potentially federal law. In addition, simultaneous with this press conference, the Colorado Department of State planned to issue a report outlining the research they had undertaken to determine if there were persons currently registered to vote who may not be U.S. citizens. Mr. Choate concluded by stating that “I wanted to warn you that this report will be issued in case it becomes a national story requiring that you address the issue relative to your state.”
UPDATE 4:20 pm: I just spoke SOS chief of staff Ken Ortiz who told me his office has not yet been served with the suit, so he can't comment. "I just find it interesting that the media got the suit before we did," he said.
Watch this space as well as tomorrow's New Mexican.
Here's the suit:
ACLU v Duran