Wednesday, December 15, 2004

New Mexico: Presidential Recount Request Headed To Court
December 15, 2004

Presidential Recount Request Headed To Court

By Deborah Baker
The Associated Press

SANTA FE — A judge on Wednesday upheld the state canvassing board's decision to require more than $1 million up front before a recount of presidential votes in New Mexico could begin.
State District Judge Carol Vigil made the ruling after a hearing.
A lawyer for the Green and Libertarian presidential nominees who requested the recount said they would take their fight to the state Supreme Court unless some kind of compromise could be worked out with the board.
"I think the judge's decision does not comply with the law," Lowell Finley said.
He had argued that the board went beyond the law Tuesday when it voted to require the payment of $1.4 million by 10 a.m. Thursday.
Finley said the Greens and Libertarians are "fully prepared" to pay for the recount, but that the law requires a deposit of no more than the $114,400 they already have deposited.
Vigil said the $114,400 "has got your foot in the door," but that the board was within its rights to require more up front.
Finley said he would discuss with board lawyers the possibility of narrowing the recount request to review only a portion of the state's voting machines used in the Nov. 2 general election.
Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron estimated the cost of the statewide recount would be more than $1.1 million.
That includes $765,130 to pay more than 8,000 poll workers, $241,620 for sheriffs to deliver summonses to the workers, and $108,670 for the per-precinct and per-machine costs required by law, she said.
But when the board voted, it agreed on a $1.4 million figure. A lawyer for the board said later that was intended to include mileage costs which could not yet be calculated.
Finley contended that the $1.4 million figure was "made up out of thin air."
Under state law, a candidate who requests a recount must pay for it if the winner of the race doesn't change.
Canvassing board members — the governor, the secretary of state and the chief justice of the state Supreme Court — said they didn't want the state to get stuck with the cost.
"I don't want to have just $114,000 from an out-of-state group that we may never be able to get the sheriff's posse after . . . for the remainder of the dollars," Vigil-Giron said in an interview Tuesday.
During the board's Tuesday evening meeting, Vigil-Giron first made a motion that the recount request be denied, which was unanimously approved. Minutes later, citing the Greens' and Libertarians' "good faith effort to send a deposit," she backtracked and proposed to order the recount if the candidates provide the additional money. That passed unanimously.
"I felt that they needed to be given an opportunity to come up with that money," Vigil-Giron said later.
Green presidential candidate David Cobb and Libertarian nominee Michael Badnarik say a recount in New Mexico — where President Bush defeated John Kerry by nearly 6,000 votes — could help identify problems with various types of voting machines.
The board on Tuesday also gave the go-ahead for a recount of paper ballots in 11 precincts in an east-side state Senate district where Democratic challenger Bob Frost lost by just 36 votes to Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis.
The recount, requested by Frost for selected precincts in Colfax, Taos and Union counties, is to begin Thursday.