Sunday, January 31, 2010

Corporate personhood

Another busy week ahead at the New Mexico Legislature- House Bills 118 and 123 both have hearings scheduled on Tuesday. HB 123 is the Same Day Registraion bill in House Consumer Affairs, and HB 118 will be heard again in House Voters and Elections. HB 118 was tabled Thursday, mostly due to the fact that a 'committee substitute' was introduced that morning and legislators wanted more time to study it.

But some of the opposition to HB 118 are already arguing that the recent Supreme Court decision in 'Citizens United' makes prohibiting campaign contributions unconstitutional. This isn't true, because Citizens United only rules on independent expenditures, not direct contributions.

We believe Citizens United is a horrible decision, and that is why Voting Matters has joined over 50,000 individuals and organizations in signing on to the Move To Amend. The goal of the movement is to amend the US Constitution to specifically declare that corporations are not persons and do not share in the rights of persons. The ball is moving, and we urge you to go to, sign on to the petition, and get involved in what may be the political struggle of our generation.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lobbyist and Contractor Contribution Ban

Last week, I mentioned two Senate Bils that would reduce the effect of big money interests in New Mexico elections. On the House side, they managed to wrap both bills into one, and make some improvements. HB 118 was introduced by Representative Jose Campos, chair of the House Voters and Elections Committee. HB 118 will be heard in House Voters and Elections on Thursday morning at 8:30 in room 317. Voting Matters encourages a Do Pass recommendation from the committee.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Same Day Voter Registration

Representative Jim Trujillo (D-Santa Fe) has introduced HB 123. HB 123 would allow early voters the oportunity to register to vote and vote on the same day. Unfortunately, the provision does not apply on Election Day.

Voting Matters has long upported repealing the provision of law that requires voter registration 28 days before an election, and HB 123 is a step in the right direction. While we would have preferred a bill that abolishes the 28 day provision altogether, we do support HB 123 and hope it will lead to even further easing in the process of voter registration and participation.

Statistics bear out that states which allow Election Day Registration have higher rates of voter participation than those that prohibit it.

Likewise, we wonder why the process of registering to vote is made so difficult. Instead, we'd like to see our government facilitate the process. Voter participation would increase if the govenrment removed the additional hurdle of requiring voters to register themselves.

Why shouldn't a person become registered to vote when they first interact with the government- when they get a job and start paying taxes, or apply for government services or a driver's license, or graduate high school? These are certainly viable solutions and we hope the conversation will change from same day registration to universal voter registration.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

2010 Legislative Session

The legislative session began Tuesday at noon, and will last 30 days this year. While it is always uncertain what electoral reforms will be discussed, we know several bills will be forthcoming in the realm of governmental ethics. Senate Bill 43 and House Bill 43 would create a state ethics commission to create standards and investigate complaints against elected and appointed state officials.

Three bills we at Voting Matters are actively supporting are Senate Bills 48, 49, and 51. Senate Bill 48, introduced by Tim Keller, would prohibit campaign contributions by state contractors. Senate Bill 49, introduced by Eric Griego, would likewise prohibit donations from business entities and lobbyists.

Senate Bill 51, also introduced by Senator Griego, would expand the Voter Action Act to include state executive and legislative candidates. The Voter Action Act is the law that implements the public campaign financing system for Public Regulation Commission and certain Judicial candidates.

These are three solid reforms to our election system that will reduce the effect of big money on our government decision making process and we will be following them closely in the weeks to come.