The election-denial movement in New Mexico continues to repeat the debunked theories that spurred the insurrection attempt. Trump supporters entered the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C., as Congress met to ratify President Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over Donald Trump. (Photo by Win McNamee / Getty Images)
The sheer volume of claims made by David and Erin Clements make it difficult to debunk each one individually — their presentations often run in the two-to-four hour range — and earlier this year they sent an unsolicited 241-page document outlining alleged election fraud to nearly every elected official in the state. But many of the individual claims fall apart with even a surface-level examination.
The Clements often say supposed voter irregularities in Pima County, Arizona and Montrose County, Colorado, show that votes in the 2020 election were altered in favor of Biden. An animated PowerPoint slide they use in their presentation purports to show that the vote swung towards Biden as more votes were counted.
Of course, as the Clements themselves note, this could be because Trump voters were more likely to vote in-person, and in-person votes were counted before mail-in ballots, meaning the proportion of Biden votes would go up as time went on (a well-documented phenomenon known as the “blue shift”).
“What you’re looking at right here is an all mail-in election,” Erin Clements told the Torrance County Commission in May, showing a slide about Pima County’s 2020 results. “That means everybody mailed in their ballots.”
The problem with her assertion is that Pima County was not an all mail-in election, and voters did vote in-person. The same is true for Montrose County, Colorado, which Erin Clements similarly claimed was mail-in only.
David Clements declined over email to be interviewed for this article or answer specific questions from Source New Mexico. Erin Clements did not respond to emailed requests for comment.
Report on perceived fraud
In a June presentation before the Otero County Commission less than a week before the county voted against certifying election results, Erin Clements said a report by the University of New Mexico demonstrated widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
Summarizing the report (which she incorrectly characterized as “Maggie’s report,” referring to Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver), Erin Clements told the commission “one in five people in our state believe they personally witnessed fraud in the election,” noting that the majority of respondents who believed they witnessed fraud said they had unsolicited absentee ballots sent to them.
But “that’s not fraud,” according to the author of the report, Lonna Atkeson. “A really big problem is that people don’t understand what fraud is.”
Atkeson said people receiving absentee ballots in someone else’s name is a problem the state should address, but there are multiple levels of checks in place to ensure New Mexicans can’t vote with someone else’s absentee ballot, including the requirement that voters write the last four digits of their Social Security Number on the absentee ballot.
Asked if her report substantiates the Clements’ claims, Atkeson was unequivocal: “There’s no evidence of fraud from that report.”
Antifa voting machines
In seeking to undermine Dominion Voting Systems, a frequent target of election conspiracists, David Clements told the Torrance County Commission that Eric Coomer, who he described as “the vice president of Dominion,” is “a member of antifa.”
“Eric Coomer was overheard during a conference call, when asked about the prospects of Trump winning, he said don’t worry about Trump, we’ll make effing sure that he’ll lose,” Clements said.
Coomer was previously the company’s vice president of engineering for the United States but currently has no role with Dominion. The line drawn to antifa and his statements on the conference call trace back to far-right podcaster Joe Oltmann, who asserts he was on the conference call but has never provided evidence to support that claim.
Coomer sued Oltmann and other right-wing media that ran with this info. Last year far-right television network Newsmax settled with Coomer and issued him a public apology.
Oltmann later started a GiveSendGo page for Clements, which has so far raised more than $300,000.
Clements mentioned Coomer in support of one of the claims he makes most frequently: that Dominion voting machines, according to the Clements, connect to the internet. Despite the fact that the machines are certified and inspected at the county and state level, as well as by an independent third party, Clements insists the only way to be sure the machines don’t connect to the internet is for the Clements themselves to be granted access to personally inspect the machines.
Susan Greenhalgh is a senior advisor for election security at Free Speech For People and a member of the Election Verification Network, two nonpartisan groups advocating for greater security and transparency in elections. She said Clements’ demands show he has a shaky grasp on the basic concepts of election security.
“Dominion does offer some of its voting machines with wireless modems, which is one of the areas that we would argue we should be doing something to improve,” she said. “But it’s an external attachment. You would see it. It’s a module that you attach to the machine. So he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, is what I’m saying.”
Greenhalgh cautioned against allowing the Clements and their allies access to voting machines, citing instances where election conspiracy theorists have been accused of tampering with voting machines around the country, investigated or criminally charged.
“It’s just kind of common sense, right? You don’t want anybody messing around in there,” she said.
Alex Curtas, a spokesperson for the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office, said allowing the Clements to inspect the machines would open the door to election tampering and possible fraud.
“If you open up the machine… they become unusable because no one is ever granted the physical access to these machines,” he said, “because that is the way that fraud could occur.”
If the Clements did access the machines, they would have to be replaced at a potential cost of millions to the state, Curtas said.
The Clements have argued publicly with Otero County Clerk Robyn Holmes, who has inspected the Dominion machines as part of her duties as clerk. The Clements say that Holmes doesn’t have the technical expertise necessary to examine the machines, while Holmes says that the data the Clements have presented from a partisan Otero County audit they’re overseeing — that’s drawn congressional scrutiny — is often flat-out wrong.
The door-to-door audit
Amateur auditors working under the Clements have gone door-to-door in Otero County questioning people about their votes in the 2020 election, drawing numerous complaints from Otero County residents. In a June meeting of the Otero County Commission, Holmes said she has tried to verify information the Clements collected during the audit and often found it to be false.
“There’s a lot of things we’ve found that were not true that they are saying,” Holmes said. “Whoever the canvasser was said ‘that person never lived there.’ Well, we showed that the person did live there,” Holmes said. “That person had voted for several years.”
At the same meeting, Holmes brought up an employee from her office, who she identified only as Selena, to address the commission. Selena told the commission that while working to verify information from the audit, she recognized the names of two people that auditors had listed as “ghost voters,” or people who voted in the 2020 election despite not living in or being registered in Otero County.
The two people named as ghost voters “are my close family, and I was there when they voted at the fairgrounds,” Selena told the commission.
Erin Clements responded that the auditors would have asked them if they lived in Otero County in 2020, and Selena said the auditors’ questions were confusing, and her family members thought they were asking about 2021, when they lived out of state.
Those kinds of errors are exactly the reason results from a door-to-door audit can’t be trusted, said Sandoval County Commission Chair Michael Meek, a Republican.
“Being on the commission, people tell you how they voted all the time,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s true. I don’t believe you’ll get anything out of a door-to-door audit of that sort, so we would never do anything like that in Sandoval County.”
The Clements frequently cite the debunked film “2000 Mules,” which purported to prove widespread fraud in the 2020 election. “2000 Mules” was created by far-right provocateur Dinesh D’Souza, who was convicted of campaign finance fraud in 2014 and later pardoned by former President Donald Trump.
The film purports to use cell-phone data to identify people who visited multiple ballot drop boxes, claiming that the same individual’s data being logged in the vicinity of multiple drop boxes indicates the person was a “mule” running illegitimate ballots to different locations.
In testimony before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, William Barr, who was Trump’s attorney general at the time of the election, laughed out loud at mention of the film and said he was “singularly unimpressed” with it.
“If you take 2 million cell phones and figure out where they are physically in a big city like Atlanta or wherever, just by definition, you will find many hundreds of them have passed by and spent time in the vicinity of these boxes,” Barr told the committee.
The real work
A major problem with the Clements spreading misinformation, said Greenhalgh, is it undermines the work of organizations like the Election Verification Network, which aim to fix actual problems with the voting system. Through her work with EVN and Free Speech For People, Greenhalgh advocates for nationwide election standards including paper ballots for all voting machines and mandatory post-election audits.
“When this conversation has been hijacked with a lot of baseless, self-serving conspiracy theories… that is an incredible disservice to our elections, to our government, to our democracy,” she said. “There’s real work to be done, and instead we have people from within the country trying to destabilize our elections with lies.”
This story was updated on Wednesday, July 20, at 1 p.m. to correctly reflect that Susan Greenhalgh advocates for paper ballots — not backups — for voting systems.
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