Almost a week after election day, Republicans in New Mexico are still trying to get their man declared winner of the governor's race.
Citing voting machine foulups in the heavily Republican Albuquerque Heights neighborhood, the party has asked the U.S. attorney here to investigate possible voting rights violations on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Joe Skeen and several state legislative candidates.
Skeen lost to former governor Bruce King by about 5,000 votes state-wide. That in itself is not surprising in a state where voter registration is heavily Democratic.
What the GOP finds hard to believe its that Skeen carried Albuquerque's Bernalillo County by only about 3,300 votes. Republicans had predicted a 12,000-vote margin in the key county.
Republican Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Manuel Lujan easily won reelection Tuesday, but they, too, were disappointed in their showing in Albuquerque.
In his 1974 loss to Gov. Jerry Apodaca, Skeen carried the county by 7,500 votes. It is unclear whether the disputed precincts hold enough votes to give the rancher-businessman a victory this year. He has refused to concede defeat.
State Republican Chairman Garrey Carruthers said any challenges to the outcome will await the official canvas Nov. 27. The results of a preliminary investigation by the FBI last week have been forwarded to the Department of Justice, according to Forrest Putman, chief agent here.
Voting machine malfunctions are nothing new to New Mexico. Voting was delayed for hours during the June primary, and a county clerk explained:
"The machines are complicated and people panic."
It was Democrat King, governor from 1970 to 1974, who lambasted the cranky voting machines after the June primary. King has not commented on the GOP's charges of machine-tampering last week, but state Democratic Chairman Lawrence Ingram calls the GOP action "ridiculous."
Nonetheless Albuquerque's Republican county chairman, Robert Davis, called it "a heck of a coincidence" that, when the polls opened Tuesday, machines in 11 heavily Republican precincts were either jammed entirely or operable only when the Democratic levers were pulled. Paper ballots were given out but many voters simply walked away according to Davis.
In all, 2 machines in three Heights districts required service. "I can't imagine how all those machines could go out unless they were sabotaged," the deputy county clerk, Democrat Tenny Culp, said at the time.