On Feb. 23, a resident of Otero County, New Mexico sent a worried email to one of the county’s three commissioners.
“My neighbor was a volunteer for [children’s aid group] CASA and she recognized someone who came to her door asking how she voted in November 2021 as someone who either was convicted or pleaded guilty to sex with a child,” the Otero County resident wrote. “She is terrified. She has grandchildren she cares for. Did the County perform background checks on the volunteers going to voters homes?”
The email came in reference to a then-ongoing “canvass” of local voter rolls, as part of an “audit” of Otero County’s 2020 presidential election. Like a previous effort in Maricopa County, New Mexico, the audit attracted a conspiratorial crowd that had falsely attributed Donald Trump’s reelection loss to voter fraud. As part of the audit, a conspiracy-promoting Telegram group, the New Mexico Audit Force (NMAF), was commissioned to knock on locals’ doors and ask them questions about their 2020 votes and their voter registrations.
A new tranche of Otero County communications, first obtained via public records request by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, sheds light on locals’ concerns about the home visits.
Within an hour of receiving the email complaining of an alleged child sex offender knocking on doors, the Otero County commissioner forwarded the message to the county’s attorney, R.B. Nichols. Nichols quickly texted Erin Clements, leader of the NMAF.
“Erin,” he wrote, “got a question from a resident. Is audit force doing background checks on volunteers?”
“No,” Clements wrote back. “we’re not doing formal background checks. Please have this person call me if they’d like to discuss any concerns they have.”
Email records show that Nichols passed Clements’ phone number to the concerned resident.
Reached by phone, Nichols told The Daily Beast that Otero County had not investigated the allegation about a convicted sex offender.
“The county’s position is that those were volunteers,” Nichols said of canvassers. “We weren’t supervising or running the canvassing. Those were all volunteer efforts.”
The Daily Beast was unable to verify the allegation of a convicted child sex offender knocking on doors in connection to the audit. Clements did not return a request for comment, and denied a version of the allegations in a February email to the local sheriff.
The exact nature of the NMAF’s involvement with Otero County and the audit has been subject to dispute. Emails between Clements and county officials show that she and the NMAF discussed a possible audit in November 2021, where she said that the audit would likely cost the county $30,000. A December email from Couy Griffin, a pro-audit county commissioner who was recently convicted for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, indicated that he thought the county could approve the audit “if it stays under $50,000.” Later that month, emails show, Clements presented the county with a proposal for an audit led by EchoMail, a tech company that had previously worked on the chaotic Maricopa County audit. Her estimated costs for the audit had increased to $49,750—just shy of Griffin’s $50,000 limit.
In January, Clements and her husband David gave a presentation on behalf of EchoMail at an Otero county commission meeting, during which they outlined plans to rescan ballots and knock on Otero County doors. At that meeting, Nichols expressed concern that the audit and canvas would expose the county to legal vulnerabilities.
"I have reservations and my recommendation right now would be not proceeding with the audit,” Nichols said at the time. He went on to cite potential issues with canvassers representing themselves as county officials.
“Are these volunteers representing the Commission when they are doing this?" Nichols asked the Clementses, who had stated that NMAF volunteers would be conducting the canvas. "Those are some things that we need to flesh out. Because some people are not going to like someone coming up to their door and asking them about where they're registered to vote, how they're registered to vote... Some people could see that as intimidation."
The canvas’s current status is murky. EchoMail quietly withdrew from the audit in March, announcing that it had found no evidence of voter fraud. EchoMail has denied contracting with the NMAF and an attorney for EchoMail told The Daily Beast last week that EchoMail was unaffiliated with David Clements.
Despite EchoMail’s finding of no election fraud, at a Otero County commission meeting on Monday David Clements claimed the NMAF canvas had unearthed troubling discrepancies in voter rolls. (A similar “canvas” report connected to Maricopa County’s audit was roundly debunked.) A county official at the meeting described the Clementses “and their organization” as continuing their canvas efforts independently. The Alamogordo Daily News reported that the canvas was allowed to continue.
During his presentation, Clements downplayed EchoMail’s finding of no fraud, attributing the tech company’s pullout to multiple investigations against it. He blamed one of those investigations, by the House Oversight Committee, on a previous Daily Beast article, which he said introduced new allegations that NMAF volunteers had misrepresented themselves as county employees. In fact, that article noted that the allegations were not new, but had been formally raised by both New Mexico’s secretary of state and its auditor’s office, the latter of which had launched its own investigation.
At the time, the New Mexico secretary of state had received between 40 and 50 complaints about Otero County canvassers, while the state auditor had received approximately 20.
While David Clements attributed the complaints to one woman who filmed an NMAF canvasser and uploaded the interaction to TikTok, Otero County officials have signaled their own concerns about NMAF canvassers misrepresenting themselves as employed by the county.
In a recent draft resolution that was never ratified, Otero’s three commissioners proposed language stating that “we understand and appreciate that New Mexico Audit Force partnered with Echomail to provide volunteer services in furtherance of the 2020 Election Audit directed by this commission. However, we want to ensure that NM Audit Force and its volunteers are not misrepresenting themselves as county officials to Otero County residents. For the continued duration of your canvassing efforts, we request that your volunteers clearly identify themselves as volunteers with NM Audit Force.”
Emails reviewed by The Daily Beast show even more complaints, including the allegation that a pedophile was involved in the canvas and a complaint from a man who said that canvassers had repeatedly misrepresented themselves as county officials.
“I was visited yesterday by two ‘Otero County Canvassing’ officials, as they stated they were,” the man wrote. “They wanted to ask me a few questions. I answered on my video doorbell, and stated I was not interested and to have a good day. The gentleman pressed me to answer a few questions, again I stated I was not interested and to have a good day. Upon leaving the lady stated ‘Did you vote, it says here you voted.’ This is all on video and record. They clearly represented themselves from ‘Otero County Canvassing.’”
The man called the interaction an act of intimidation.
Otero County residents have previously voiced concern about the distribution of their voting information to door-to-door canvassers—a concern intensified by comments made by NMAF leadership. At a recent meeting about audit efforts, David Clements announced that “I want arrests, I want prosecutions, I want firing squads,” for people found to have stolen the 2020 election.
The NMAF was aware of such complaints as early as February. That’s when Nichols forwarded the complaint about an alleged sex offender to Erin Clements. That’s also when Clements filed a complaint to the local sheriff, accusing one complainant (the TikTok user) of inciting threats against her. As evidence, Clements included the TikTok footage, and voicemails she’d received from aggrieved locals.
A sergeant who reviewed the case did not agree with Clements’s description. “In these voicemails I was unable to locate a specific threat aimed directly at Mrs. Clements,” the sergeant wrote in a police report, adding that the TikTok video did not include a call to harass Clements. “[I] believe they all acted independently,” the sergeant concluded.
The attached voicemails reveal more locals’ complaints about the canvas.
“What the hell are you doing with people’s personal information?” one woman said in a voicemail reviewed by The Daily Beast. “Signature cards and everything like that. For all I know, you’re a sex criminal!”
The NMAF is also not the first conservative canvassing group to field complaints about alleged impropriety toward children. In an internal handbook, the Colorado-based conspiracy group U.S. Election Integrity Project previously disclosed an apparent penchant for attracting predators. In the handbook, first reported by the Colorado Times Recorder, the USEIP said it had conducted basic social media checks, but that unsavory characters had slipped through the cracks.
“This process was in place for many months, until we learned (roundaboutly) that there were a couple of people in our group, who were volunteering for our events, who had a criminal history of sexual misconduct,” the USEIP handbook reads. “Since our events are always open for people to bring their kids, we couldn’t continue to be so relaxed in our approach [...] It’s unfortunate that we must check volunteers for pedophilic leanings, but welcome to 2021.”
It is unclear whether the NMAF implemented any of its own background checks after receiving complaints in late February.
In a separate late-February email to the sheriff, Clements said that she had received a phone call from a woman complaining of a known predator participating in the canvas.
“She claimed that a friend of hers opened the door one day and a known pedophile was at her door - by himself presumably,” Clements wrote. “I asked for the name of this pedophile. It wasn’t one of our volunteers. I suspect she’s making up the whole story, but I was very clear this person wasn’t working with us.”