Pro-Trump Otero County in New Mexico is doing a wild test of the 2020 votes

For months, fringe groups have knocking on doors all over the country, asking about residents’ 2020 votes. But in Otero County, New Mexico, those knocks could soon come as part of a nearly $50,000 contract between the county, a hawker tech conglomerate, and an even far-right Telegram channel.

Otero County is a Republican stronghold in New Mexico. More than 60% of Otero voters voted for Donald Trump in 2020, in contrast to the state’s pro-Biden majority. That hasn’t stopped some locals, mainly an Otero County commissioner now facing charges related to the January 6 attack on the Capitol, from calling for an “audit” of the incident. county vote.

In January, the county approved a nearly $49,750 audit contract with EchoMail, a company founded by election conspiracy promoter Shiva Ayyadurai. In turn, EchoMail said it would contract with the “New Mexico Auditor Force” to make a “door-to-door tarp” for county voters.

But the audit effort can face initial setbacks. New Mexico’s de facto state auditor, Brian Colón, was open a special check on the legitimacy of the Otero audit. Meanwhile, EchoMail’s recent work on an “inspection” of votes in Maricopa County, Arizona received a cursed rebuttal from local officials, and the “New Mexico Audit Force” is not a company at all, but a Telegram group dedicated to researching conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

Colón said his audit will look at whether the EchoMail contract follows state and local codes, as well as whether it is a worthwhile use of tax dollars.

“Is there justification to support the expenditures?” Colon told The Daily Beast. “That is where we consider whether this is wasteful spending, or is it in the best interests of the citizens of Otero County.”

Colón said his office opened an investigation after an Otero County resident contacted them with concerns. This is not the first time in recent history that the state audit office has been called in to investigate Otero County spending.

“Some people wouldn’t like someone coming to their door and asking them where they registered to vote, how they registered to vote.”

In 2020, Colón’s office issued risk advice for county travel costs, after county commissioner Couy Griffin spent $3,237 on a trip to a Trump event in DC. Griffin, a former restaurateur and founder of the “Cowboys for Trump” group, later paid off the county debt.

The 2019 trip won’t be Griffin’s last journey to DC. On January 6, 2021, he was filmed on the steps of the US Capitol, speech via bullhorn for Trump fans during the attack on the building. Griffin is due to go on trial next month on charges of entering restricted grounds and obstructing government business on January 6. Griffin has denied both charges and alleges that the assault The public was a “crowd,” saying “we could have a second Protest Amendment on the same steps as we had yesterday’s rally. You know, and if we do. Well, it’s going to be a sad day, because there’s going to be blood coming out of that building.”

Griffin, who did not return The Daily Beast’s request for comment, is a strong supporter of the Otero County review.

When the district attorney raised legal concerns about the audit (specifically, civil rights cases) during the county meeting on January 13, Griffin dismissed his concerns.

“Should I honor my oath and be loyal to the people or should I crawl back to the state and say ‘oh no, I could get sued or I could get in trouble? ”” Griffin asked during the meeting. “What you will do?”

Griffin’s past pro-Trump spending, combined with his support of an audit, could put the campaign in jeopardy to state investigators.

“We always have to consider the red flags,” said Colón. “Previous misconduct will be a red flag for any future circumstances. And in this case, we know that the strongest individual who wants the county to sign this contract is the one we’ve held accountable for in the past. “

Otero is not the first county to conduct a controversial election “audit,” nor is it the first to contract EchoMail. The company, originally an email service founded by Ayyadurai, was among the contractors involved in the 2021 Maricopa County budget blow audit. Ayyadurai and other contractors have repeatedly promoted the theory. conspiracies to cheat elections. Although the final audit confirmed that President Joe Biden had won Maricopa County (it actually increased Biden’s odds of winning), it turned up a list of 75 alleged errors in the filing. county voting records.

Maricopa County officials quickly confirmed 74 of the claims (the final outcome, an example of 50 double-count ballots, could be true, local official says).

Despite EchoMail and Ayyadurai’s recent filings, Otero County’s contract with EchoMail allows the company to analyze “approximately 25,000 ballot images” and “perform a door-to-door review of its voter registration database.” Otero County to determine the accuracy of its voter registration database. ”

Those remedial efforts, which included knocking on doors and asking people for their ballots, were legal but controversial. Several pro-Trump groups, both local and national, led similar efforts in late 2021. The visits were not always well received, with Pennsylvania officials accuse those who threaten and a national aid organization admitted that some of its volunteers displayed “pedophilia tendencies”.

EchoMail’s contract with Otero County stipulates that its “canvass shall be staffed voluntarily under the direction of the New Mexico Auditor Force (‘Volunteers’) with guidance from EchoMail.”

Neither EchoMail nor Ayyadurai returned requests for comment about their relationship with the New Mexico Auditing Force (NMAF) or its plans to screen and train its team. And while no related parties have clarified whether Otero County contracts directly with the NMAF, such a relationship seems unlikely, as the NMAF does not appear to be a legitimate entity. (No business with that or similar names exists on New Mexico business records.)

Instead, NMAF’s main online presence is a Telegram group, where leaders regularly allege fraud in the 2020 presidential election. The group regularly shares posts from people who like Ron. Watkins, the former 8kun administrator is accused of authoring parts of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Group leader Erin Clements has also incorrectly stated that the 2020 presidential election vote showed evidence of “algorithmic” manipulation in favor of Biden.

Contacted via Telegram, Clements told The Daily Beast she would answer questions after the reporter read the New Mexico Audit Force report titled “New Mexico Election Fraud”. Knowing that this reporter had reviewed the document, Clements declined to answer questions, instead asking the New Mexico Audit Force Telegram channel to contact the reporter.

During the January 13 meeting, Otero District Attorney RB Nichols noted that the canvass effort is one of the potential liabilities for EchoMail’s proposed audit. He asked if people passing through the NMAF were representing the county when they knocked on the door.

“Some people wouldn’t like someone coming up to their doorstep and asking them where they registered to vote, how they registered to vote,” Nichols said, in comments first reported by the Alamogordo Daily News. “Some people might see that as a threat.”

Clements, who was attending the meeting on behalf of EchoMail, said the group would not portray itself as affiliated with the county. “That part is really volunteer-based, so you’re not contracting with the intercessors, all you’re doing is getting reports from the testers,” says Clements. “We introduce ourselves as the ‘New Mexico Auditor Force’ and do not refer to the county at all.”

Like the chaotic Maricopa County audit, Otero’s effort is using taxpayer money, as well as private fundraising for unspecified expenses. The county reached a $49,750 agreement with EchoMail, although Nichols warned that actual costs could exceed $50,000.

13, Nichols noted that more audit documents may have to be obtained through the New Mexico Public Records Audit Act, a move that would increase administrative fees.

“I don’t think EchoMail would want to pay that because it would be a bad business move for them,” Nichols said. “The county wants this done, so the county will have to bear the additional costs of producing this IPRA, in addition to the burden on the secretarial office and their already rather demanding duties.”

Outside of official channels, the New Mexico Audit Force is also raising funds for its “remedial” efforts. In a fundraiser promoted by MAGA attorney Lin Wood (and hosted on one of his websites), the group is trying to raise $100,000 for its efforts. (In their contract with EchoMail and during the January 13 county meeting, NMAF and EchoMail described NMAF as a group of “volunteers.”)

On its Telegram channel on Tuesday, the NMAF shared a post claiming to have raised $20,000 through a Wood-backed fundraiser. The total amount accounted for a substantial portion of the taxpayer dollars that Otero County intended to spend on the audit.

“We’re talking about close to $50,000,” said Nichols, “that’s not an insignificant amount.” Pro-Trump Otero County in New Mexico is doing a wild test of the 2020 votes

Russell Falcon

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