Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thanks, Citizens! [accounts of possible election fraud]

This morning's emails included a copy of this very eloquent letter from a citizen of Las Cruces, one of several who reported (to me, to councilors, to the newspapers, and/or to the authorities) unsettling encounters with representatives of the effort to recall three city councilors.  (I'm still interested in hearing from folks who had similar experiences!)

Here's her letter, in full:
Subject: Misleading Methods Used to Collect Signatures for the Recall Petition
English statesman Edmund Burke said: “All that is needed for the forces of evil to triumph is for enough good men and women to do nothing.”

Dear NM District Attorney, Doña Ana County Clerk & Las Cruces City Clerk,

    (Forgive me for not knowing your full names.)
    In this busy holiday season, we don't always find the TIME to do all we want.  And in the life of a quiet, thoughtful fence-sitter (like myself), we don't always find the GUTS to move and speak out.  I have never been involved in politics, but I always research and vote for whom I feel is the best candidate.  I have never before written a letter to someone in power (like yourselves) or to a newspaper, but I sometimes like reading editorials and Sound-Off style comments.  However, that changes for me now with this letter to you.

    On the morning of Saturday, Dec. 20th, my doorbell rang.  A good-looking young gentleman asked me if I had time to discuss some injustices now taking place in Las Cruces.  I did.  So, between the locked screen door, we spoke for about 5 or 6 minutes.  I learned about several places that the local government wants to shut down.  Of most interest was a "Dream Center" which he explained serves indigent people in numerous ways that he shared with me. Gosh, I thought, why would we close such a worthwhile place to save money?  He also said they want to close a school of boxing near the Aquatic Center to expand the parking lot. We agreed that kids are better off defending themselves with their fists than with knives or guns.  I shared that when using the Aquatic Center, I've never experienced a parking problem, and thought it would be unfair and unnecessary to force the boxers to move elsewhere.

    The kind gentleman then asked me if I was willing to sign a petition to keep these worthwhile centers open.  I answered "yes, of course!"   I took his pen & the stack of petitions on a clipboard.  Looking down I noticed the signatures & info of about eight neighbors on Emerald Street. "Good", I thought. Then I read the paragraph at the top of the petition.  Huh?

     I asked, "Is this the right petition?"  He questioned why.  I read the small print aloud to him. It was asking for a recall of my District 5 Representative, Gill Sorg.  It said nothing whatsoever about what we had just discussed!  He stammered and stumbled, all of a sudden making no sense. I abruptly but kindly sent him away.

    The bait and switch tactic that he was trying to employ was shameful, misleading, and a misrepresentation of how our democracy should work.  I felt deceived and defrauded ... and wondered how many people would be persuaded to sign that "kind" and "caring" gentleman's petition, without reading the small print above.

    I shared this disturbing experience with a friend from church, who asked me to tell it to her friend Peter Goodman, which I did. Peter, in turn, asked me to share it with you, which I'm doing now, albeit late.

    If it's true that the Las Cruces government doesn't have the money to keep open the various worthwhile centers it supposedly wants to close or needlessly move, then where will you find the money to mount a bogus recall election of our already duly elected representatives?!?

    If you have extra time and money, I ask that you contact those who have signed the stacks of Recall Petitions to see if they too were misled by unscrupulous individuals who pretend to care about the local people, but really harbor ulterior, unspoken motives.

    As I see it, the injustices that the gentleman asked to discuss with me pale in light of the huge injustice and fraud that he himself committed. 

    Doing nothing about this bogus, deceitful and deceptive method of collecting petition signatures for a recall election could have unfair, unneeded and costly repercussions.  We must be vigilant and (I'm learning) DO something to combat injustice.

    Susan K. Lindeman

Ms. Lindeman's letter echoes some themes that permeate this situation.  Obviously the Recallers' frequent reliance on misleading and perhaps illegal tactics is chief among those; but so is the way those tactics will not only fail with many citizens here but will quite reasonably push them to speak up and/or act to oppose this unwarranted attack on their duly-elected City Councilors.

Ms. Lindeman describes herself as a "fence-sitter"  who has never before written a letter to a newspaper editor but carefully reads up on the pros and cons of electoral candidates before voting.  She knew little of the Recall effort before she was approached to sign a petition.  The attempted fraud she witnessed, indeed experienced, quickly educated her.  (Her description of the incident is exceptionally vivid and direct.)

She exemplifies what I have hoped might happen: that despite the Recall effort's threat to extinguish the flame of civil political discourse locally, the same effort, by its inappropriateness and by the proliferating false statements it must rely on because of its lack of substance, might also unify decent and thoughtful citizens in their opposition to it.  I may be overly optimistic in my hopes, but I'm grateful for Ms. Lindeman and others like her.*

What I hope we're seeing is that New Mexicans, whatever their political and social views may be, will stand up and speak out when they come face-to-face with fraud and injustice.

Not everyone does so.  Her letter reminds me of how and why it can sometimes be difficult for private citizens to do so.

Thus I congratulate her.

Thanks, Ms. Lindeman!

And Mr. Servais; and others who've taken the time and had the courage to speak out.

*One among them, whose letter [reprinted below] appeared in the Sun-News last week, is Kenneth Servais, who describes himself as a long-time educator here.  His letter (as does Ms. Lindeman's in its reference to neighbors' signatures) is a sober reminder that for each Servais or Lindeman, many others (caught without the right glasses handy, busy caring for children, otherwise distracted, overly trusting in a nice young petition-solicitor, and/or not a regular reader of English) signed petitions to recall councilors they re-elected only last year and had no particular complaints about!  But I'd urge the wealthy backers of the recall effort to contemplate how those people will feel once they realize what they signed.  I suspect they'll feel motivated at least to go out in bad weather to vote, should there ever actually be an election.  Because they will find out you duped them.

Writer reports deceptive practices on recall petition
On Tuesday evening, Dec. 17, 2014, about dinner time — a young man came to our door gathering signatures on a petition. He stated he was gathering signatures to stop the "demolition" by the city of the PAL Boxing Club building to make more parking for the city's aquatic center. Thinking of the importance of programs for the youth of the city, I thought it was a worthy endeavor. I was willing to sign the petition.
As I looked to see the petition statement, I saw no attached pages. Then I read the top of the petition page, and it stated that the petition was for the "recall" of councilor Olga Pedroza for District 3. When I saw that I stated I could not sign that petition.
I thought after the young man left that it was quite deceiving that the statement was made one way and the petition was for something other than what was stated. To say the least, I was very upset that an effort was made to deceive me into signing. Being an educator in the Mesilla Valley for the past 42 years, I know that more than 50 percent of the general population — though educated — does not care to read. And though one can state that one is responsible for reading what one puts a signature to, the whole experience of misrepresentation is quite upsetting.
I think the public needs to know what is happening regarding this recall process. The page was nearly full with signatures. I wonder how many signed after being presented a deceptive story. Great care needs to be given to this process. I have asked the City Clerk to investigate petitions from that date and my neighborhood for authenticity of intent of the signers.
Kenneth Servais, Las Cruces

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