Tuesday, December 16, 2014

You call that an election?

Question: Why does a group of 1000 voters get to set policy in a town with 16,000 registered voters and a population over 30,000? Answer: Because majority rules.

If that doesn't make sense to you- good!

Yet that is exactly what happened on December 9 in Hobbs. A special election was called on the issue of whether to require Voter ID for future municipal elections, and only 1310 patriots, 8% of registered voters, came out to exercise their hard won right to vote.

Not incidentally, the measure passed, and now Hobbs joins Albuquerque and Rio Rancho in requiring voters to show a photo ID in order to cast their ballots.

One has to wonder at the process behind this new law. Why would the town of Hobbs schedule a special election just one month after the general election, which almost always has a higher turnout. Granted, the turnout in Lea County was still a dismal 29%, but that is better than 8%. Lea's turnout was the lowest of any county in New Mexico, where, statewide, there was a depressing 40% participation rate.

Democracy is not always easy. But let's do something to make sure it remains democracy. Maybe elections need to have a quorum attached, so that if at least 50% of registered voters don't show up, the election is moot.

How about making it easier to register to vote, or better yet, universal registration of citizens. And what about making sure everyone gets a ballot in the mail that they can return either by mail or in-person? Or making Election Days holidays?

In a recent election, Scotland had over 90% voter participation, and most European and Latin American countries see similar participation rates. Our country has a Democracy problem, and it is time to remedy that. Instead of draconian ID laws that are proven to lower already low participation, our policymakers should be working to encourage civic engagement.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Building the Case for Voter ID

Just days before the 2014 general election, Secretary of State Dianna Duran issued two press releases with a dual purpose: to influence voters in her favor and to build a case for legislation mandating voter ID. “Voter fraud confirmed in Rio Arriba County” details the story of a man from Hernandez who went to vote only to find someone had supposedly voted in his name, while “Bernalillo County Clerk issues three absentee ballots to deceased voters” points an accusatory finger at Duran's opponent Maggie Toulouse-Oliver.

In what was clearly a last minute attack on Toulouse-Oliver, Duran's November 3 press release raises more questions than it answers. For example, how did the unnamed “Albuquerque man” come into possession of three ballots mailed to three different deceased voters? Similarly, one wonders whether the persons were recently deceased and there hadn't been time to remove them from the roster, or if the Secretary of State had notified Bernalillo County to remove said deceased from the rolls in accordance with election law (1.4.25)?

The case of the Hernandez man is equally ambiguous. Did a person come into the early voting site and intentionally steal someone else's vote, as stated unequivocally by Madame Secretary? Or was it a clerical error, in which the voter signed the wrong line of the voter roster? Or a mixup among residents with the same or similar names? Again, the lack of detail leads one to believe the point of the press release was more than an election official performing due diligence.

Certainly the FBI and DA's office will look into the facts of these two incidents and clarify some of the murky details for us. But what is equally problematic is the Secretary's role. Are we persuaded that she is merely doing her job as the state's chief election officer to bring to light two troubling occurrences? Or was she in fact using her office for partisan purposes?

The latter, unfortunately, seems more likely, especially in light of the following quotation from both press releases. “...elections officials have no legal means of actually verifying signatures or confirming the identification of any voter.”

The fact that Secretary Duran supports Voter ID is not in question. Her strong ally Representative Diane Hamilton (R- Silver City) will surely be introducing that legislation again. In fact, Representative Hamilton considers Voter ID her hallmark legislation, stating last year that she was considering retiring but would not do so until that bill became law. And now, Secretary Duran has heaped two more pieces of spurious evidence on to the pile along with voting dogs and their ilk.

Leaders like Governor Martinez, Secretary Duran, and Representative Hamilton are part of the Republican war on voting. Voter suppression tactics are being employed across the nation to keep people away from the polls. Republican legislatures around the country are implementing ID laws, limiting early voting times and sites, and doing whatever they can to make it harder to vote. And it is working.

Working for the Republicans, that is, but not for the republic. The right to vote is what defines a democracy, and has been fought for repeatedly over our history as a nation, from outlawing poll taxes to women's suffrage. Unfortunately, those hard won gains are being taken back through fearmongering.

Republicans must know that restrictions on voting are unAmerican, but they pursue them anyway. Madame Secretary, do you truly believe in free and fair elections? If so, please show it by working to remove barriers to register and to vote, not by putting up even more obstacles.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Election 2014 Underway

October 1, 2013 marked the official beginning of the 2014 primary and general election season, with Secretary of State Dianna Duran making candidate packets available (see link to SoS website at right). And the near conclusion of Albuquerque's municipal election marks the traditional beginning. We say near conclusion, because there will be a runoff election in district 7 on November 19. Hasn't anybody told the Albuquerque City Council about the benefits of Ranked Choice Voting? They could be saving hundreds of thousands of dollars if they had let voters indicate their second choice preferences on Election Day!

Meanwhile, as the pundits are wondering if the Demmies can take back the governor's mansion or if the Republicans will gain enough seats to control the roundhouse, we at Voting Matters have other questions.

How many of the 70 state house seats will even be competitive in November? Between the last redistricting debacle and the pathetically low turnout in party primaries, it seems most of our legislators are fully entrenched in an incumbent protection plan.

Who will run for the three Public Regulation Commission seats that will be on the ballot? Now that the legislature has ensured that only industry insiders can hold these crucial positions, we expect the PRC to slide even further away from its role as a consumer protection agency.

Will any Libertarian, Green, or Independent candidates dare challenge the two party system and mount serious challenges in local, state, or federal elections?

How many New Mexicans will even bother to vote in one or both elections this season?

What role and how much influence will unregulated,so-called independent groups have in the post-Citizens United era, and will we finally get fed up by them and demand a constitutional amendment clarifying that money is not speech and corporations are not people?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Running Clean in Albuquerque

Albuquerque voters will be going to the polls October 8 to elect a mayor and six city councilors. Early and absentee voting has begun.

Nine of the fifteen council candidates and one of the three mayor candidates are using the city's public campaign financing system. They are:

District 1- Ken Sanchez

District 2- Isaac Benton
District 2- Roxanna Meyers

District 3- Tania Silva

District 5- Dan Lewis
District 5- Eloise Gift

District 7- Diane Gibson

District 9- Lovie McGee
District 9- Dan Harris

Mayor- Pete Dinelli

Three candidates in district 3 and three candidates in district 7, and two candidates for mayor chose to raise private funds for their campaigns.

A list of polling places and other election information is available at the city's website (see link at right).

Get out there and vote, Albuquerque! (and don't forget your photo ID- it is required).

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Municipal Election Season Begins

As Albuquerque voters get ready to go to the polls to elect a mayor and half of the city council in October, municipal election season began Tuesday in Santa Fe and other cities and towns around the state.

In Santa Fe, eight people picked up candidate packets to run for mayor, while eleven others are beginning the process of running for four city council seats. Candidates have until November 5 (remember, remember) to gather petition signatures, then officially declare their candidacies on December 3. Election Day is March 4.

As we have repeatedly blogged, crowded fields like these are the exact reason voters approved Ranked Choice Voting. It is almost certain that the victors in the mayors race and some council races will win without a majority of votes, meaning that more people will have preferred someone other than the victor! Time will tell...

Friday, August 30, 2013

Move To Amend: Barnstorming New Mexico

The National Campaign to End Corporate Personhood and Demand Real Democracy!

Move to Amend invites you to join us as we barnstorm the state of New Mexico this September!

Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, National Director for Move to Amend, is touring New Mexico to help local residents understand how they can work to abolish "Corporate Personhood" and establish a government of, by, and for the people.

Kaitlin is a dedicated community organizer who grew up in Santa Fe before moving to Humboldt County, CA, where she was elected as the first woman and youngest member to serve on the Humboldt County Municipal Water District Board. Her talk "Creating Democracy & Challenging Corporate Rule" is part history lesson and part heart-felt call-to-action!

All events are free and open to the general public. Move to Amend finances these tours through the generous donations of event attendees.

Thursday, September 12, 7:00pm - ALBUQUERQUE
First Unitarian Church,
3701 Carlisle Boulevard Northeast

Friday, September 13, 6:30pm - LAS CRUCES
Unitarian Universalist Church of Las Cruces,
2000 South Solano Drive

Monday, September 16, 6pm - TAOS
Kit Carson Electric Cooperative,
118 Cruz Alta Road

Wednesday, September 18, 6pm - SANTA FE
Warehouse 21,
1614 Paseo de Peralta

For more information, please email us at barnstorming@movetoamend.org.

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Mexico disquaifies two minor parties due to low vote totals

The following will appear in the September print edition of Ballot Access News, edited by Richard Winger. Richard has been a stalwart in following ballot access for candidates and parties for decades. Another version of this appears on his blog along with many other articles of interest(see link at right).


The law on how a party remains on the New Mexico ballot says, “Section 1-7-2(c). A qualified party shall cease to be qualified if two successive general elections are held without at least one of the party’s candidates on the ballot or if the total votes cast for the party’s candidates for governor or president, provided that the party has a candidate seeking election to either of those offices, in a general election do not equal at least one-half of 1% of the total vote cast.”

For the past sixteen years, this law has been interpreted to mean that if a party submits a party petition, it gets to be on the ballot for two elections. Both the Green Party and the Constitution Party submitted a petition for party status in 2012. They both ran candidates for President in 2012, and neither got as much as one-half of 1%.

But now Secretary of State Dianna J. Duran is interpreting the law to mean that a party goes off the ballot after just one election, if it fails to get the one-half of 1%. She finds authority for this action from an Attorney General’s Opinion written in 1992. However, the Opinion was not followed by Secretaries of State and Attorneys General during the period 1996 through 2012, because it seems flawed.
The law is poorly worded, but most neutral readers would probably agree that the phrase “two successive general elections” refers to both halves of the sentence, not just the first half.

In 2005, Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron ruled that both the Green Party and the Constitution Party were still on the ballot, even though both of them had run for President in 2004 and failed to poll one-half of 1%. The Attorney General approved her action. Also, in 2010, Secretary of State Mary Herrera left the Constitution Party on the ballot, even though it had last petitioned in 2008 and had run for President in 2008 and had not polled as much as one-half of 1%. She did not leave the Green Party on the ballot for 2010 because it had not petitioned since 1992 (it had met the vote test in 1994, 1996, 2000, and 2002, but had not met it since).

It is hoped that the Secretary of State will ask for a new Attorney General Opinion.
The Secretary of State still recognizes the Libertarian Party, because it polled over one-half of 1% for President last year (it polled 3.55%). She still recognizes the Independent American Party, which had no presidential candidate on the ballot last year.