More than 20 people who investigators and Española city election officials suspect may have had their signatures forged on absentee ballots in the March 1 municipal election filed affidavits in a civil suit on Tuesday saying their signatures were genuine.
The filings came a day after state police arrested a 21-year-old Española man on suspicion of voter fraud.
Dyon Herrera, who was a campaign volunteer for newly elected Councilor Robert Seeds, is charged with two counts of falsifying signatures on two of the absentee ballots and one count of falsifying a signature on an application for an absentee ballot in the March elections.
City election officials did not count the three ballots in the final tally, 238-236 in favor of Seeds, because they suspected Herrera may have signed two of the absentee ballots and one application for an absentee ballot on behalf of his grandparents and another man.
But the man’s grandmother, Lenora Herrera, signed an affidavit saying she signed her own ballot envelope and she witnessed her now-deceased husband, Lee Roy Herrera, also sign his ballot envelope.
“I instructed my grandson, Dyon Herrera, to hand deliver the signed, sealed envelopes to the City of Española,” Lenora Herrera says in the signed affidavit.
Ben Lopez, another man whose signature came into question by city election officials and police, signed a separate affidavit, saying he signed his own ballot envelope.
The affidavits were part of a response filed in court on Tuesday by Seeds and his lawyer, Yvonne Quintana, to a civil suit by former Councilor Cory Lewis, who claims the election was stolen from him because someone had fraudulently signed people’s absentee ballots.
Quintana, Seeds and Lewis did not immediately respond to messages from The New Mexican seeking comment.
In a complaint amended May 28, Lewis’ lawyer lists 23 voters suspected of not signing the envelopes submitted in their name. Another envelope, the complaint claims, was submitted unsigned but still tallied. Lewis’ lawyer, Christopher L. Graeser, says the ballot should have been rejected.
But as part of the response, Quintana attached an additional 21 affidavits signed by voters whose signatures are in question.
All of those 21 people, like Lopez and Herrera’s grandmother, say that they signed their ballot envelopes. Some of the affidavits say that they feel like they have been “harassed and intimidated by police” in the course of the investigation.
As for the submitted unsigned envelope, Quintana says in the response that she does not have enough information to admit or deny that allegation.
Quintana also says that the Herreras’ and Lopez’s ballots should have been counted because only the precinct board has the authority to disqualify ballots and city election officials never presented the ballots to that board for review.
State police arrested Dyon Herrera on Monday on a warrant signed by a Magistrate Court judge. Herrera was in the Rio Arriba County jail in Tierra Amarilla in lieu of $1,500 cash-only bond.
In the affidavit seeking Herrera’s arrest, state police Officer Hector Vacio said the department’s investigation found fraud in at least some of the absentee ballots.
“A review was done on all absentee ballots that were submitted from District 4 in Española and there were absentee ballots which had discrepancies in the signatures,” Vacio wrote.
State police began their investigation because Española city officials suspected that Dyon Herrera had signed two absentee ballots and one absentee ballot application.
Contact Uriel Garcia at 505-986-3062 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ujohnnyg.