Group rebuffs House inquiry into New Mexico election audit

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A congressional oversight committee indicated Wednesday that the lead contractor in a partisan audit of 2020 election results in New Mexico has rebuffed requests for documents and information about door-to-door canvasing that has raised concerns of possible voter intimidation.

The House committee is investigating potential intimidation by volunteers for a conspiracy group who are going door to door, canvassing voters in Otero County and asking intrusive questions. EchoMail, a private company and one of the contractors previously involved in Arizona’s partisan ballot review, has said it won’t meet a Thursday deadline to provide information.

The House Oversight Committee had asked EchoMail in a March 16 letter to produce records by Thursday regarding its forensic audit in Otero County, New Mexico. EchoMail responded with a letter denying oversight and any contractual relationship with the volunteer-based canvassing group New Mexico Audit Force, while distancing itself from the audit and providing no further documents.

“EchoMail is not conducting any audit in Otero County and was contracted to solely provide a data warehouse system including professional services,” EchoMail CEO V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai wrote.

Ayyadurai’s statements contradict numerous documents submitted to local governments and statements by advocates for New Mexico Audit Force at public meetings and Telegram social media accounts, the committee noted in the follow-up letter signed by Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the committee, and Jamie Raskin, the chair of a subcommittee on civil rights.

“The Committee intends to get to the bottom of this so-called audit and canvass and the threats they pose to free and fair elections,” the committee wrote back to Ayyadurai.

Ayyadurai has advanced conspiracy theories about the 2020 election as well as his own loss in a Massachusetts state Senate race. He did not immediately respond to phone calls Wednesday.

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, has said that many Otero County residents have been caught off guard when approached by canvassers who are affiliated with the New Mexico Audit Force group and claim in some instances to be county employees.

Contacted Wednesday, New Mexico Audit Force leader Erin Clements said the volunteer canvassing effort is not a “contracted” part of the audit by EchoMail, although Audit Force plans to report its canvass findings and analysis to the county commission and provide periodic updates.

“People have the right to affirm or dispel their suspicions regarding how they feel about their elections,” Clements said of the canvassing operation. She denied reports that volunteer canvassers have misrepresented themselves as county workers.

Clements advocated at several county commission meetings for a “forensic audit” of the 2020 election — clarifying Wednesday that she was serving as a volunteer liaison to help the county find a qualified contractor.

“They don’t have jurisdiction over what happens in Otero County,” Clements said of the House Oversight Committee. “The county has authority over its own elections.”

The Republican-led Otero County commission in January authorized a $49,750 contract for a countywide review of election records and voter registration information. It accepted a proposal from EchoMail, one of the contractors hired by Republican Arizona lawmakers to review the 2020 election in Maricopa County. That review in Arizona’s largest county produced no proof to support then-President Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen election.

The House committee said it has indications that the contracted audit and canvassing are intertwined, citing a podcast appearance and Telegram posts involving New Mexico Audit Force and David Clements, a former public prosecutor and advocate for “forensic audit” reviews of the 2020 election who is married to Erin Clements.

“The significant discrepancies between your claims and the multiple filings and statements by New Mexico Audit Force — as well as your apparent admission that EchoMail used data from the door-to-door canvass — reinforce the Committee’s need for the documents we requested,” the committee wrote to Ayyadurai.

Nearly a year and a half after the 2020 general election, the U.S. continues to grapple with bogus claims surrounding Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential win. Ballot reviews have been conducted across the country, from Arizona’s Maricopa County to Pennsylvania’s Fulton County.

Trump and his allies have falsely claimed that voting systems or ballot tallies were manipulated to steal the election from him. Judges across the country, of both parties, dismissed those claims. Trump’s former attorney general William Barr said a month after the election that there was no indication of widespread fraud that could change the result.

An Associated Press review of votes cast in battleground states contested by Trump also found too few cases of fraud to affect the outcome.