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WED: Torrance County seeks removal of elections clerk, + More

Torrance County election machines tabulation
Andres Leighton/AP
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FR171260 AP
Data flash cards sit on certification forms for ballot-counting machines bearing the signature of Torrance County Clerk Yvonne Otero, as testing begins at a county warehouse in Estancia, N.M., Sept. 29, 2022. State and local authorities said Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, that Otero signed the certification papers before the equipment was tested and inspected for use in the general election, without ever attending the inspections. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Rural New Mexico county seeks removal of elections clerk - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

A county commission in rural New Mexico that has been roiled by election conspiracies is trying to oust its election director just five weeks before Election Day for improperly certifying ballot-counting equipment.

Torrance County is repeating the certification of its vote-counting machines for the Nov. 8 general election based on revelations that County Clerk Yvonne Otero pre-signed certification forms before testing and did not attend the inspection of election equipment.

Torrance is one of a handful of rural counties in New Mexico that considered delaying certification of the results of its primary election as angry crowds gave voice to unproven conspiracy theories about voting systems. The chaotic coda to the June primary drew national attention to a state that is expected to have several tight races this year for high-profile offices, including governor.

County Manager Janice Barela said the three-member commission voted unanimously Monday to submit a complaint with state and local prosecutors that seeks to remove Otero, a Republican, from her elected office. The commission said she botched the certification of the county's 22 ballot-counting machines and cites separate allegations that Otero harassed employees of the clerk's office on multiple occasions.

The New Mexico secretary of state's offices said certificates for ballot tabulation machines should be signed by the clerk or deputy clerk who attends the inspection and the testing of the machines.

Otero, whose elected term runs through 2024, did not immediately return phone calls and text messages.

Torrance County Commission Chairman Ryan Schwebach urged Otero to resign at a special meeting of the commission in Estancia on Monday. Otero attended the meeting and declined to respond, citing the advice of legal counsel.

The politically conservative county continues to grapple with simmering mistrust about voting systems as a national network of conspiracy theorists pushes false allegations of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Torrance County's all-Republican board of commissioners has responded to that anger and skepticism by assigning county staff to monitor preparations for the November general election and conduct a hand recount of primary election results.

Barela is at the forefront of that oversight effort. She attended the certification of voting machines last week and said pre-signed certificates struck her as "dishonest" because the county clerk was not in attendance.

"That goes to the core of what her duties are," Barela said Tuesday. "That's the very first thing, is certifying the machines. ... That means something. We need to have trust."

Torrance County Deputy Clerk Sylvia Chavez said technicians began a second round of ballot-machine testing last Friday, after consulting with state election regulators. She oversaw the testing again and signed the recertification of eight machines — enough equipment to tally ballots from early voting that begins Oct. 11. That still leaves time to review other machines before Election Day voting on Nov. 8, she said.

Chavez said the physical inspection and testing of election equipment by technicians, using mock ballots, never strayed from procedures set out by the secretary of state.

New Mexico uses paper ballots that are machine tallied and stored for possible recounts. County clerks oversee a canvass to double-check ballot tallies, and a certified public accountant conducts an audit after each statewide election with hand tallies of randomly selected precincts to verify accuracy.

County officials also are forwarding to prosecutors a complaint that Otero's mother was hired by the clerk's office as a paid precinct judge and member of a county voter registration board, a possible conflict with state regulations against nepotism. The family connection was first noted by Libertarian Party officials.

State Elections Director Mandy Vigil reviewed the nepotism complaint and found the restrictions against family serving on election boards do not apply because Otero has not been up for reelection. Otero has said her mother is highly qualified and was hired by agency staff and not by herself directly.

Ronchetti accepts donation from yet another fake elector - Ryan Lowery, Source New Mexico

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti received a cash donation from a woman who was part of an attempt to falsely allocate the state’s electoral votes to Donald Trump, a recently filed finance report shows.

The campaign received a similar donation earlier this summer, and so far, campaign officials have refused to respond to questions about either donation.

Rosalind Tripp, Lupe L. Garcia and three other New Mexicans signed a phony document that was submitted to the National Archives in December 2020 as part of an attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election. Campaign finance reports show that Tripp donated $1,000 to Ronchetti’s campaign on Aug. 19. Garcia donated $2,000 to the campaign at the end of June.

The Ronchetti campaign also received a $2,500 donation on Aug. 19 from Tripp’s husband, Donald Tripp Jr. The Tripps also donated to the campaign of Harry Montoya through a trust. Montoya is a Republican running for state treasurer.

The trust donated an investment valued at $1,000 on Aug. 15. Garcia, meanwhile, donated $700 to Montoya’s campaign on July 6.

While the amounts may seem low compared with what’s being spent on campaigns this election cycle, in the first Source NM story about a fake elector donating to Ronchetti’s campaign, a government transparency advocate pointed out that without commenting on these donations, voters don’t know where he stands on the efforts of the fake electors.

“The hallmark of running anything ethical, whether its government or a good campaign, is transparency and honesty,” said Kathleen Sabo, executive director of the nonpartisan New Mexico Ethics Watch. “We always encourage public servants to adopt the highest standard of ethics in order to increase the public’s trust.”

NO COMMENT

Source New Mexico attempted to reach Montoya via email. He did not respond.

Multiple requests for comment were submitted by Source New Mexico to the Ronchetti campaign in August about the donation from Garcia. Campaign officials did not respond.

Ryan Sabel, a Ronchetti campaign spokesman, was reached by phone Monday, but he refused to answer questions about either donation and instead requested that any questions be sent via email. Those questions were sent to Sabel Monday afternoon, but he did not respond. He also ignored subsequent requests for comment.

Rosalind Tripp could not be reached for comment.

We’ll update this story if we hear back.

The phony paperwork submitted by Tripp and Garcia was part of an effort by Republicans in seven states where Trump lost to President Joe Biden. The goal of the scheme was to replace those state’s official slates of electors with alternate slates that would then allocate votes to Trump instead of Biden.

Electors in each state were required to sign documents certifying their state’s election results by Dec. 14. When that date arrived, there was still no evidence disputing the 2020 election results.

In New Mexico, Biden won the state by 10 percentage points.

The congressional select committee on Jan. 6 subpoenaed at least 14 of the counterfeit electors as part of the investigation into attempts by Trump and his allies to overturn the election results. The committee also agreed to share 20 transcripts regarding the false electors scheme with the Department of Justice.

Neither Tripp nor Garcia are among those subpoenaed, but two signers of the fake New Mexico document were subpoenaed: Jewll Powdrell and Deborah W. Maestas. Powdrell is listed as the chairperson for the slate of alternative electors, and Maestas is listed as the secretary.

The U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee last week passed legislation that seeks to clarify how electoral votes are certified. The bill seeks to prevent future attempts to overturn presidential election results by updating an 1887 elections law that was cited by Trump as he attempted to subvert the results of the 2020 election.

The bill made it out of committee on a nearly unanimous vote, 14-1. The sole vote against it was cast by Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican.

Lawsuit settled, film may resume after Alec Baldwin shooting - By Andrew Dalton AP Entertainment Writer

The family of a cinematographer shot and killed by Alec Baldwin on the set of the film "Rust" has agreed to settle a lawsuit against the actor and the movie's producers, and producers aim to restart the project in January despite unresolved workplace safety sanctions.

"We have reached a settlement, subject to court approval, for our wrongful death case against the producers of Rust including Alec Baldwin," said a statement Wednesday from Matthew Hutchins, widower of the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and a plaintiff in the lawsuit along with their 9-year-old son Andros. "As part of that settlement, our case will be dismissed. The filming of Rust, which I will now executive produce, will resume with all the original principal players on board, in January 2023."

The agreement is a rare piece of positive news for Baldwin, who has had a turbulent year since the Oct. 21 shooting. The actor, who was also a producer on the film, was pointing a gun at Hutchins when it went off, killing her and wounding the director, Joel Souza. They had been inside a small church during setup for filming a scene.

He announced the settlement agreement in an Instagram post.

"Throughout this difficult process, everyone has maintained the specific desire to do what is best for Halyna's son," Baldwin said in the post. "We are grateful to everyone who contributed to the resolution of this tragic and painful situation."

Baldwin has said the gun went off accidentally and that he did not pull the trigger. But a recent FBI forensic report found the weapon could not not have fired unless the trigger was pulled.

New Mexico's Office of the Medical Investigator determined the shooting was an accident following the completion of an autopsy and a review of law enforcement reports.

"I have no interest in engaging in recriminations or attribution of blame (to the producers or Mr. Baldwin)," Matthew Hutchins said in the statement. "All of us believe Halyna's death was a terrible accident. I am grateful that the producers and the entertainment community have come together to pay tribute to Halyna's final work."

Rust Movie Productions continues to challenge the basis of a $137,000 fine against the company by New Mexico occupational safety regulators who say production managers on the set failed to follow standard industry protocols for firearms safety. The state Occupational Health and Safety Review Commission has scheduled an eight-day hearing on the disputed sanctions in April 2023.

Matthew Maez, spokesman for the Environment Department that enforces occupational safety regulations, says immediate gun-safety concerns were addressed when "Rust" ceased filming, and that a return to filming in New Mexico would be accompanied by new safety inspections.

"They're going through the process as they have a right to," Maez said. "They have not paid the fine or accepted the conclusions."

In April, New Mexico's Occupational Health and Safety Bureau imposed the maximum fine against Rust Movie Productions and distributed a scathing narrative of safety failures, including testimony that production managers took limited or no action to address two misfires of blank ammunition on set prior to the fatal shooting.

Rust Movie Productions told safety regulators that misfires prior to the fatal shooting of Hutchins did not violate safety protocols and that "appropriate corrective actions were taken," including briefings of cast and crew.

Other legal troubles persist in relation to the film and the deadly shooting.

At least four other lawsuits brought by crew members remain, and the state of New Mexico has granted funds to pay for possible criminal prosecutions.

Baldwin is also a defendant in an unrelated defamation lawsuit brought by the family of a Marine killed in Afghanistan.

The Hutchins family lawsuit, filed in February, was harshly critical of Baldwin, the films producers, and the other defendants: unit production manager Katherine Walters, assistant director David Halls, armorer Hannah Guttierez Reed, and ammunition supplier Seth Kenney.

Their "reckless conduct and cost-cutting measures led to the death of Halyna Hutchins," plaintiffs' attorney Brian Panish said at a news conference.

According to the lawsuit, if proper protocols had been followed, "Halyna Hutchins would be alive and well, hugging her husband and 9-year-old son."

The lawsuit said industry standards call for using a rubber or similar prop gun during the setup, and there was no call for a real gun. It also said Baldwin and Halls, who handed him the gun, should have checked the revolver for live bullets.

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Associated Press writer Morgan Lee contributed from Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Several people injured after New Mexico school bus rollover - Associated Press

Several people have been injured Wednesday after a rollover involving a school bus in southern New Mexico, authorities said.

Roswell Independent School District officials said students from Mountain View Middle School were headed on a trip to Las Cruces on Wednesday morning when the bus left the road and went into a ditch.

They said several people were taken to area hospitals for treatment of minor injuries, but it's unclear if they were children or adults.

New Mexico State Police said it wasn't immediately known how many students were on the bus, how many were injured or how the rollover occurred about 4 miles east of Bent.

More emergency aid for flooding heading to the Black Fire burn scar in southern NM - Megan Gleason, Source New Mexico 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an emergency declaration for Sierra County due to flooding on Monday, Oct. 3. This is the fourth county near the Black Fire burn scar to receive emergency funding and resources in a month.

The governor signed emergency declarations for Catron County on Sept. 16, Hidalgo County on Sept. 12 and Grant County on Sept. 8, all due to flooding. These orders provide $750,000 for the state’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to repair destruction and prevent future damage in each county.

Ryan Williams is the emergency services administrator in Sierra County. He said monsoon rains started in August, and it rained more than usual in the southern counties. The Black Fire burn scar intensified flooding threats in the four counties, Williams said, though some sustained flooding damage earlier.

“It’s definitely gone through and rearranged a lot of our things and torn up a lot of our infrastructure,” Williams said.

Counties have to spend a certain amount of money on flooding recovery before asking the state for help, and Sierra County used up about $54,000 for flood mitigation and repairs before the emergency disaster declaration came down, Williams said. Now, the state aid will mainly go toward public infrastructure, he said.

Williams said roads are the biggest point of concern since a lot of outlying rural communities only have a single access point. He pointed out that lack of road access creates medical risks, like being unable to access emergency medical care, as well as regular commute issues with folks not being able to get to work.

“There’s a lot when you have a ‘one way in, one way out’ situation, and it’s completely impassable,” Williams said. “It’s really a priority that we have to make sure that our residents can get in and out.”

Despite the declaration, landowners with damage on private or federal land still have to go through different agencies for help, he said, like the Natural Resources Conservation Service or the Farm Service Agency.

California water agencies offer Colorado River savings - By Kathleen Ronayne Associated Press

California water agencies that rely on the parched Colorado River said Wednesday they can reduce their use by one-tenth starting in 2023 in response to calls for cuts from the federal government.

The agencies, which supply water to farmers and millions of people in Southern California, laid out their proposal in a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior. It comes as drought continues to diminish the river, and months after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation first called on users to voluntarily limit their reliance on it.

California shares the river's water with six other states, tribes and Mexico. It's has rights to the single largest share and is the last to lose water in times of shortage.

The proposal to cut 400,000 acre feet annually marks the first time California water agencies are publicly and formally indicating what they're willing to give up since federal officials demanded cuts this summer. California has been under pressure from other states to figure out how to use less as river reservoirs drop so low they risk losing the ability to generate hydropower and deliver water.

An acre-foot of water is enough to supply about two households for a year. California is entitled to 4.4 million acre feet of Colorado River water each year.

"While a broad multi-state agreement to conserve water across the Basin has not been reached, the California agencies propose to take voluntary action now to conserve water in coming months," the California agencies wrote.

The letter was scant on details. The agencies said they have "a collection of proposed water conservation and water use reduction opportunities" that would help keep more water in Lake Mead, one of the river's key reservoirs. The letter did not list any specific projects.

The agencies would also expect to be paid for the savings with money from the federal Inflation Reduction Act, which included $4 billion for drought relief. The letter doesn't specify a rate of payment the agencies are expecting.

Four California water agencies take water from the river: The Imperial Irrigation District, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Coachella Valley Water District and the Palo Verde Irrigation District.

The irrigation district in California's Imperial Valley receives a larger share of the river than any other entity. It's the only source of water for crops in California's southeastern desert, where many of the nation's winter vegetables, like broccoli, as well as feed crops like alfalfa are grown.

Runoff from the irrigation district also feeds the Salton Sea, a lake in Southern California created in 1905 when the Colorado River overflowed. Once a destination, the lake has been drying up in recent decades, exposing residents to harmful dust and harming ecosystems.

"Voluntary water conservation actions outlined in this letter depends on a clear federal commitment to contribute meaningfully to stabilization efforts at the Salton Sea," the agencies wrote.

Experts alarmed by GOP secretary of state candidate’s conspiracy theorizing in NM – By Andrew Beale, Source New Mexico

Audrey Trujillo, the Republican candidate for New Mexico Secretary of State, appeared on Steve Bannon’s podcast in June to explain why she’s convinced former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election.

“Somebody asked me, ‘How do you know Trump won New Mexico?’ and I’m like, ‘We didn’t see Biden signs anywhere,’ ” Trujillo told Bannon, podcast host and former Trump adviser, who is awaiting sentencing on a federal conviction for contempt of Congress and separately facing charges of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy in New York State.

“We saw Trump signs,” Trujillo said. “We saw huge convoys. We had so many people that were so excited to see Trump continue in his presidency.”

Trujillo has embraced a wide range of conspiracy theories, including that President Joe Biden has been replaced by a clone and that school shootings are carried out by a shadowy “deep state” in order to push gun control on the American public. Last year, her social media account shared an antisemitic meme insinuating a Jewish conspiracy to push COVID-19 vaccines on the public. She told the Albuquerque Journal her account was hacked before switching gears and claiming she may have shared the image but didn’t have any “racist intent.”

She’s also a regular guest on the conspiracy podcast “Spoken Words in New Mexico,” telling host Jordilynn Ortiz in August that legalized abortion is a plot against Black and Hispanic communities.

“Look at the people who support BLM. They’re the same people that support abortion,” Trujillo said. “And they don’t realize, the whole point of those Planned Parenthoods was to put ‘em in those areas where we had the Black population, where we had, you know, Hispanics. To kill our babies!”

Only 6% of Planned Parenthoods are located in majority-Black areas, and abortion bans disproportionately harm people of color, according to doctors, researchers and advocates.

Despite her numerous false claims, 33% of voters in New Mexico say they would cast their ballots for her, according to recent polling by the Albuquerque Journal. Still, she trails incumbent Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver by a wide margin, with 45% of likely voters favoring Toulouse Oliver. Trujillo is also far behind on fundraising, with only $63,852 in her campaign coffers compared to $466,231 raised by Toulouse Oliver.

Despite the seemingly long election odds, Trujillo has gained a measure of national influence through her prolific use of social media and alliance with major far-right figures like Bannon. She is a member of a national alliance of election-denying candidates vying to become their state’s top elections administrator called the “America First SOS Coalition.” She’s slated to appear at the Ruidoso Convention Center on Oct. 7 along with major national conspiracy figures Mike Lindell, Joe Oltmann and Seth Keshel.

Trujillo ran unopposed in the N.M. primary for the party nomination, but very little of her campaign’s financial support has come from Republican Party PACs, with only $2,700 total PAC contributions to Trujillo over the course of the election cycle.

Mike Curtis, communications director for the Republican Party of New Mexico, declined to answer questions about the party’s support for Trujillo, responding only that Source New Mexico should direct questions to Trujillo’s campaign. A recent email flyer circulated by the party advertised a meet-and-greet with Trujillo in Mesilla, though the flyer noted Trujillo’s own campaign was paying for the event. Audrey Trujillo, the Republican candidate for New Mexico Secretary of State, appeared on Steve Bannon’s podcast in June to explain why she’s convinced former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election.

“Somebody asked me, ‘How do you know Trump won New Mexico?’ and I’m like, ‘We didn’t see Biden signs anywhere,’ ” Trujillo told Bannon, podcast host and former Trump adviser, who is awaiting sentencing on a federal conviction for contempt of Congress and separately facing charges of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy in New York State.

“We saw Trump signs,” Trujillo said. “We saw huge convoys. We had so many people that were so excited to see Trump continue in his presidency.”

Trujillo has embraced a wide range of conspiracy theories, including that President Joe Biden has been replaced by a clone and that school shootings are carried out by a shadowy “deep state” in order to push gun control on the American public. Last year, her social media account shared an antisemitic meme insinuating a Jewish conspiracy to push COVID-19 vaccines on the public. She told the Albuquerque Journal her account was hacked before switching gears and claiming she may have shared the image but didn’t have any “racist intent.”

She’s also a regular guest on the conspiracy podcast “Spoken Words in New Mexico,” telling host Jordilynn Ortiz in August that legalized abortion is a plot against Black and Hispanic communities.

“Look at the people who support BLM. They’re the same people that support abortion,” Trujillo said. “And they don’t realize, the whole point of those Planned Parenthoods was to put ‘em in those areas where we had the Black population, where we had, you know, Hispanics. To kill our babies!”

Only 6% of Planned Parenthoods are located in majority-Black areas, and abortion bans disproportionately harm people of color, according to doctors, researchers and advocates.

Despite her numerous false claims, 33% of voters in New Mexico say they would cast their ballots for her, according to recent polling by the Albuquerque Journal. Still, she trails incumbent Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver by a wide margin, with 45% of likely voters favoring Toulouse Oliver. Trujillo is also far behind on fundraising, with only $63,852 in her campaign coffers compared to $466,231 raised by Toulouse Oliver.

Despite the seemingly long election odds, Trujillo has gained a measure of national influence through her prolific use of social media and alliance with major far-right figures like Bannon. She is a member of a national alliance of election-denying candidates vying to become their state’s top elections administrator called the “America First SOS Coalition.” She’s slated to appear at the Ruidoso Convention Center on Oct. 7 along with major national conspiracy figures Mike Lindell, Joe Oltmann and Seth Keshel.

Trujillo ran unopposed in the N.M. primary for the party nomination, but very little of her campaign’s financial support has come from Republican Party PACs, with only $2,700 total PAC contributions to Trujillo over the course of the election cycle.

Mike Curtis, communications director for the Republican Party of New Mexico, declined to answer questions about the party’s support for Trujillo, responding only that Source New Mexico should direct questions to Trujillo’s campaign. A recent email flyer circulated by the party advertised a meet-and-greet with Trujillo in Mesilla, though the flyer noted Trujillo’s own campaign was paying for the event.

According to Bret Schafer of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a nonpartisan think tank that works to combat authoritarian attacks on democracies worldwide, Trujillo consistently ranks among the top three most influential Secretary of State candidates on social media nationwide. The group maintains a tool, the Midterm Monitor, for tracking political candidates’ reactions and follows on various social media platforms.

Schafer said it’s impossible to tell whether the reactions to Trujillo’s social media are driven by supporters, opponents or simply by “morbid curiosity.”

“I guess if you’re taking the glass-half-empty approach, it would be that there is significant public interest in the platforms of election deniers,” he said. “If you were taking a more optimistic view, it would be that this is also on the radar of the public in general to push back.”

Schafer said secretary of state positions are among the most critical elected offices, since the winner gains direct influence over the voting process.

“Being an election denier inherently suggests that you are partisan in your leanings and have at least engaged with, on some level, conspiracy theories,” he said. “And this is not just a problem of narrative. You’re seeing in some cases that decisions are being made, laws are being changed.”

Schafer pointed to the example of Nye County, Nevada, where the county commission voted to hand count all ballots, using debunked conspiracy theories about voting machines as a rationale. Republican Nye County Clerk Sandra Merlino warned commissioners that hand counting is less accurate than machine tabulators and risks introducing confusion into the process, before resigning in frustration after the commission ignored her warnings.

David Armiak, of the progressive watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy, warned of the dangers of electing conspiracy theorists in even starker terms.

“We’re in deep trouble for democracy, because if this group comes in power, they could potentially be in power continuously” by changing election rules to ensure their own re-election, he said. “So that’s moving us towards authoritarianism or fascism.”

Rachel Orey, associate director of the Elections Project at Washington, D.C.-based think tank the Bipartisan Policy Center, said the two major risks of election deniers taking secretary of state positions are that they could potentially disrupt election processes, and that they could undermine public confidence in elections.

“When you have the spokespeople for elections in a state not believing the results of the election… it’s going to further the fracturing of the American public,” she said. “I could absolutely see another Jan. 6 happening at the state level. I hope that does not come to fruition, but it is on the table.”

Trujillo has been endorsed by David and Erin Clements, who have played a major role in sowing discord and disrupting elections in New Mexico, and were named by NPR as some of the most influential election deniers in the country. David Clements claimed to have met with Trujillo in July, and Trujillo has repeatedly shared posts by the Clements on social media.

David and Erin Clements were the masterminds behind a statewide push for county commissions to refuse certification of the June 7 primary elections. Commissioners in at least three counties acting on the Clements’ advice voted against certification, though all counties eventually certified the results. Trujillo posted a message to Facebook days after the election urging county commissioners to vote against certification. In Otero County, the New Mexico Supreme Court had to step in and order the commission to certify the elections.

Trujillo did not respond to emailed requests for comment for this story. David and Erin Clements declined to comment.

Alex Curtas, a spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office in New Mexico, said he thinks it’s unlikely that election deniers could cause a total breakdown in the state’s electoral system.

“I think our laws, the institutions we have, are really good. And I think they would still hold up, and the way they’re structured would resist even an election denier being in the Secretary of State’s Office,” he said.

Still, he said, a conspiracy theorist taking the reins could cause a lot of damage. He pointed to the example of the Otero County commission’s refusal to certify the primary election results.

“We mobilized very quickly to give as much information as we could to the Otero County clerk, the Otero County attorney… and we had to then take them to court to make sure the Otero County Commission acting as the election board didn’t disenfranchise something like 8,000 voters,” he said. “That scenario… with someone like Audrey Trujillo as Secretary of State would have played out quite different.”

Officers charged in 2019 death of MDC inmate Villela found not guilty - Albuquerque Journal, KUNM News 

The prison guards charged in the 2019 death of Vicente Villela, an inmate at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center, have been found not guilty.

The Albuquerque Journal reports 35-year-old Jonathan Sandoval and his supervisor, 46-year-old Lt. Keith Brandon, had been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Villela died after Sandoval and other MDC corrections officers held him down in a cell. The incident was caught on tape, which played throughout the trial.

Prosecutors told the jury that Brandon ordered Sandoval to press his knee into Villela’s back, causing his death, and that the officers ignored Villela’s pleas of not being able to breath.

The defense argued that the evidence presented to the jury did not show that the guards’ actions directly resulted in Villela’s death.

Arizona abortion rights backers sue to overturn old ban - By Bob Christie Associated Press

Supporters of abortion rights on Tuesday sued to block an old Arizona law that criminalizes nearly all abortions, arguing that laws passed by the state Legislature after 1973's Roe v. Wade decision should take precedence and abortions should be allowed until 15 weeks into a pregnancy.

The lawsuit filed by a Phoenix abortion doctor and the Arizona Medical Association repeats many of the arguments made by Planned Parenthood and its Arizona affiliate in their failed effort last month to persuade a Tucson judge to keep in place a 50-year-old injunction barring enforcement of the pre-statehood law. The judge said it was not procedurally proper for her to try to reconcile 50 years of later law with the old law.

Instead, she agreed with Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich that the injunction should be lifted now that the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe.

The Sept. 23 decision from Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson came a day before a new law signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey that banned abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy took effect.

In wake of the decision that said the 1864 law that bans abortion unless the mother's life is in danger is enforceable, abortion clinics statewide shut down. It was the second time clinics had halted services — they shut down the first time after the Supreme Court ruling, but some restarted after a federal judge ruled that a different "personhood" law was unenforceable.

There is no exception for rape or incest under the old law.

The new lawsuit was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court and seeks an order that says that a raft of newer laws regulating abortion practices by doctors enacted since Roe are the ones that should be enforceable, including the 15-week ban Ducey signed in March. The pre-territorial law should be enforceable only against non-physicians, the lawsuit says.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Perkins Coie law firm filed the case, which names the state as the defendant.

"The state of Arizona has caused complete chaos by seeking to enforce clashing abortion bans, including one of the most extreme in the country," Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

She said the result of the confusing set of laws is that providers and patients are in an untenable position where they "have no sense of what the law is and whether they are breaking it."

Brnovich spokeswoman Katie Conner said his office has not yet been served with the suit, but "it shows that the ACLU is more concerned about press releases and getting headlines than getting clarity on the law." She declined additional comment.

Arizona clinics have been arranging to have patients go to California and New Mexico for abortions. On Monday, a Phoenix clinic announced a new workaround that allows patients to have abortion pills mailed to a city on the California-Arizona border and pick up the pills out of state, saving a two-day round trip for care.

Arizona is one of 14 states that have banned abortions at any stage of pregnancy since Roe was struck down. About 13,000 people in Arizona get an abortion each year, according to Arizona Department of Health Services reports. About half are with a pill, which can be taken up to 12 weeks gestation, and most are done at 15 weeks or less.

Arizona woman accused of fatally shooting husband, young son - Associated Press

A northern Arizona woman is facing federal charges in the shooting deaths of her husband and young son last week, according to authorities.

The FBI said 28-year-old Lydia Carol King is being held on suspicion of two counts of first-degree murder.

According to a federal indictment, Navajo Nation police responded to a home last Wednesday night after a caller said a man and a 6-year-old boy were found dead near the town of Kaibeto.

Police said both bodies had a gunshot wound to the head and King had fled the scene before law enforcement arrived.

King showed up at a Flagstaff hospital Thursday morning and told police she had killed two people on the Navajo reservation, investigators said.

Court documents show King told FBI agents that she wondered if her husband was going to harm her and decided to kill him first, then fatally shot her son in the face as he pleaded with her not to do it.

Authorities said King drove away and fired shots at several passing vehicles between Kaibeto and Red Lake.

King has a scheduled Oct. 24 hearing in U.S. Magistrate Court in Flagstaff to determine her mental competency.

Sarah Erlinder, an assistant federal public defender representing King, declined comment on the case Tuesday.