DA wants to prosecute those ‘who are soliciting the public to violate the election laws,’ so she’s offering amnesty to people who were ‘influenced to participate in the Sunland Park election for illicit purposes’ if they cooperate with investigators.
The director of Sunland Park’s senior center was arrested today on felony charges alleging she influenced two El Paso residents to illegally vote for Daniel Salinas in the March 6 mayoral election.
Silvia Gomez, who is also a former Sunland Park city councilor, faces two charges of false voting and two charges of conspiracy to commit false voting. Each is a fourth-degree felony, and she faces a maximum of six years in prison if convicted on all charges. She’s being held at the Doña Ana County Detention Center on a $50,000 surety bond.
Read the criminal complaint and other documents related to Gomez’s case here. The redactions were made by NMPolitics.net.
The charges stem from the investigation started last week by the offices of Secretary of State Dianna Duran and Doña Ana County District Attorney Amy Orlando, who have alleged widespread voter fraud in Sunland Park in advance of Tuesday’s election. Orlando, who had a judge reject her petition to delay Tuesday’s election last week, has said additional individuals will be charged.
Orlando told NMPolitics.net today it’s clear that people “associated with the electoral process in Sunland Park,” Salinas’ campaign, and Sunland Park city government “have attempted to illegally influence the vote and the campaign results for the Mar. 6 election.”
Gomez is the fifth city official to be charged in recent days. Last weekend, investigators filed extortion and other charges against Salinas and City Manager Jamie Aguilera alleging they attempted to use a lap-dance video to force another candidate out of the mayoral race, and tampering-with-evidence charges against two other city employees related to the extortion case.
The investigation is ongoing. Salinas remains on the ballot, but if he’s elected and later convicted of a felony crime, he would be removed from office. Convicted felons can’t hold office in New Mexico.
Details in Gomez case
In the new case, investigators allege that Gomez pushed two El Paso residents to illegally register to vote in Sunland Park and then cast ballots in the mayoral race for Salinas. The criminal complaint states the two went to Sunland Park City Hall to inquire about obtaining a business permit for vacant land they own in the city on Jan. 3. There, they came into contact with Gomez, who asked them to register and then vote for Salinas.
When the two advised Gomez they were Texas residents, “Silvia Gomez told them it was okay and that they could use Silvia Gomez’s address as their residence on the voter registration form,” the criminal complaint states.
Though both are registered voters in Texas, they did what Gomez asked. Gomez, who is certified to register people to vote in New Mexico and has been doing it for years, turned in the voter registration forms to the Sunland Park City Clerk’s Office on Jan. 5. The two voted on Feb. 14, during early voting.
Duran’s report says those two are among 12 registered New Mexico voters other than Gomez who list Gomez’s home as their residence. Six of them, including the two cited in this case, registered earlier this year. Those two aren’t the only ones investigators say live in Texas and aren’t qualified to vote in the Sunland Park election.
Though they’re identified in public records, NMPolitics.net isn’t yet naming those people, including the two whose votes led to the charges against Gomez, but will do so if they are charged.
District attorney offers amnesty
Orlando isn’t charging the two El Pasoans whose votes led to the charges against Gomez. Though illegally registering to vote and voting are fourth-degree felonies, those who were urged to do so, told it was OK, and didn’t know otherwise will be granted amnesty if they cooperate with investigators, she said.
Orlando is urging anyone who was “influenced to participate in the Sunland Park election for illicit purposes” to come forward and cooperate with investigators.
“The district attorney’s office is dedicated to investigating and prosecuting the individuals who are soliciting the public to violate the election laws,” she said.
That includes Gomez. The fact that she used her home address to register people to vote shows that Gomez knew “she was setting these people up to commit a crime,” Orlando said.
“She was taking advantage of them for her agenda,” the district attorney said.