New Mexico Republican who signed bogus electoral certificate says he has 'no regrets whatsoever'

State GOP quiet after A.G. refers fake electoral certificate to U.S. Attorney

Algernon D'Ammassa
Las Cruces Sun-News

A bogus electoral certificate signed by prominent New Mexico Republicans and sent to the national archive in the wake of the 2020 presidential election has gotten new scrutiny over the past week.

The peculiar action received scant attention in the shadow of a lawsuit from President Donald Trump's campaign on the day that New Mexico electors gathered at the state Capitol building in Santa Fe to deliver New Mexico's five electoral college votes to Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for president and vice president.

Alternative electoral certificates from New Mexico and six other states were first published byAmerican Oversight and have taken on greater significance as the U.S. House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol scrutinizes efforts by Trump supporters to subvert the certification of Biden's election win in several states. 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, described a similar action by Republicans in that state as "election fraud" and referred the case to federal prosecutors while continuing to mull state charges as well, Ann Arbor News reported

In this Feb. 26, 2019, file photo, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas talks during a news conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, also a Democrat, has similarly referred the New Mexico Republicans' certificate to U.S. Attorney Fred J. Federici. 

“Election laws are the foundation of our democracy and must be respected," Balderas said in a statement. "While review under state law is ongoing, we have referred this matter to the appropriate federal law-enforcement authorities and will provide any assistance they deem necessary.”

OnPolitics:The Electoral Count Act, Jan. 6 and the 2020 Election

New Mexico Republicans, for their part, including the signers who argued they might be the rightful electors, have mostly been silent. One of the signers, however, told the Las Cruces Sun-News he has "no regrets whatsoever."

The state Republican Party did not respond to queries for this story.

Undermining the 2020 election

It was Dec.14, 2020 when Democratic electors cast their votes after Biden won New Mexico's popular vote by 501,614 votes to President Donald Trump's 401,894. The result was executed on a certificate of ascertainment by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and filed according to regular process.

On the same day, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit over New Mexico's use of drop boxes to collect completed ballots, one of a series of measures taken to enhance public safety in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Weeks later, the campaign dropped the matter, but the president continued to assert false claims of widespread voter fraud and insist he was the rightful winner, all evidence — in the wake of audits and recounts in multiple states — to the contrary. 

Also on Dec. 14, New Mexico Republican electors also turned up at the state capitol and were refused admittance, but nonetheless signed their own election certificate in support of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

FILE - Vice President Mike Pence presides over a joint session of Congress as it convenes to count the Electoral College votes cast in November's election, at the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 6, 2021. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., stands at right. Pence did not bend to President Donald Trump’s extraordinary pressure to intervene and presided over the count in line with his ceremonial role. He announced the certification of Biden’s victory before dawn, hours after a mob of Trump’s supporters violently ransacked the building. (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP, File) ORG XMIT: WX106

The signers were businessmen Jewll Powdrell and Lupe Garcia; Deborah Maestas, a former state GOP chairperson; Rosie Tripp, a former GOP national committee member from Socorro who has held elected offices; and Anissa Ford-Tinnin, who signed as a substitute for oil businessman (and another former state party chairperson) Harvey Yates.

According to the document, the parallel certification was undertaken "on the understanding that it might later be determined that we are the duly elected and qualified Electors for President and Vice President of the United States of America from New Mexico." 

The certificate was then signed and filed with the National Archives and Records Administration. There was, however, never any merit to the claim that New Mexico's election result might be overturned in favor of Trump.

"It didn’t have any real impact on the counting of electoral votes," Alex Curtas, a spokesman for New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, told the Sun-News, adding, "They didn’t disrupt the actual authentic electoral college count. The election went off as it should have."

More:New Mexico requires tied elections to be decided by games of chance

Weeks later, on Jan. 6, 2021, supporters of the president assaulted Congress as it met to finalize the election, after Trump called on them to march to the Capitol during a fiery rally near the White House.

After order was restored and the proceedings continued, newly sworn Congresswoman Rep. Yvette Herrell, a Republican representing southern New Mexico, objected to certifying election results in Biden's favor from Arizona and Pennsylvania.

U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-N.M., objecting to certification of Pennsylvania's Electoral College results for the Nov. 3, 2020 presidential election, on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021.

Herrell's office did not respond to queries from the Sun-News about the GOP electoral certificates or her thoughts, in retrospect, about the validity of Biden's election. 

Despite Republican objections in Congress, the election results were confirmed and Biden and Harris were inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021 in the presence of heightened security at the Capitol and throughout Washington, D.C.

'No regrets whatsoever'

Powdrell, a Rio Rancho businessman identified as chairperson on the Republicans' electoral certificate, told the Sun-News he had "no regrets whatsoever" about signing the certificate that day.

It was Powdrell's first time serving as a presidential elector for his party, and he recalled that after being refused admittance at the state Capitol building, the group signed the certificate in the lobby. 

He dismissed renewed attention on the certificate as a "non-issue."

"Now that the election is over, why are we talking about it?" he asked, laughing. "How can you undermine an election that had already been done?" 

His intention in signing the certificate was "to say I support the Republican Party," he said, not to undermine the process.

Rioters stand on the US Capitol building to protest the official election of President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 6, 2021, on Washington DC.

Asked whether he accepted Biden's victory in the election as genuine, Powdrell hedged, first saying, "The election was what it was and unless you’ve got definitive, undisputable, irreversible facts to refute it, it is what it is."

He then suggested that such evidence might exist, but that courts refused to hear it. The Trump campaign and allies filed lawsuits and motions to intervene in several states and before the U.S. Supreme Court in the weeks following the election. None of the challenges prevailed. 

"The courts won’t hear it," Powdrell said, "so maybe it’s time that you presented those facts to the general public and let the general public decide."

'They have real consequences'

Curtas said the Secretary of State's Office supported further investigation of the Republicans' certificate, saying what seemed like a stunt in December 2020 was subsequently revealed as part of a darker picture following Jan. 6 and subsequent revelations of efforts to overturn the election for Trump.

"It’s exactly those kind of acts and the narrative they perpetuated that led to the violence on Jan. 6," Curtas said. "They have real consequences and really can undermine our democratic processes."

More:New Mexico delegation in Washington reflects on Jan. 6 Capitol riot

Since the Jan. 6 uprising, Curtas said, "Voting rights is very much in the narrative right now both at the state and federal level," including an ambitious package of election proposals Toulouse Oliver and the governor have presented to state lawmakers for the current legislative session.

However, he said proposals to address problems such as counterfeit or "alternative" electoral certificates are hard to define, noting that the effort did not disrupt the election process directly even if it served to seed doubts in the process.

Algernon D'Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, adammassa@lcsun-news.com or @AlgernonWrites on Twitter.