Saturday, June 26, 2010

Green Party Candidate Petitions Denied

On Tuesday, June 22, the office of the Secretary of State refused to accept petitions and filing papers from Green Party Congressional candidate Alan Woodruff. Interrim Director of Elections Don Franciisco Trujillo, the fifth person to hold the position in four years, declined to accept the petitions because the Green Party of New Mexico is no longer a qualified party, according to news reports.

If it is true that the Green Party is no longer a qualified party, then the Secretary of State has been in violation of the Election Code, which clearly states that upon making a determination that a political party is no longer qualified, they must notify the county clerks, who must then immediately notify all members of the party. Presumably, this is so party members can either join a qualified party or circulate petitions to requalify the party.

A few phone calls to county clerks revealed that the office of the Secretary of State has not notified them of the removal of the Green Party. A conversation with Don Francisco Trujillo also revealed that only the Libertarian Party is qualified to run candidates this year, also a clear violation of statute. Both the Independent Party and the Constitution party would remain qualified based on section 1-7-2 of the state election code, which says a party remains qualified for two elections after qualifying as a minor party, which both did during the 2008 election cycle.

These and other shenanigans have been going on ever since the Green Party qualified as the first new major party in New Mexico history back in 1994, when several of its candidates exceeded the 10% threshold to become a major party.

The state legislature has made it more difficult for minor party and independent candidates by moving up the date by which one must declare party membership and the candidate filing date, and attempted to make the major party threshold impossibly high.

And the Secretary of State and Attorney general's offices have colluded to reinterpret clear election law to all but eliminate the participation of minor party and independents from our elections.

As it stands, there will be very few contested elections in New Mexico in 2010, with 36 of 70 state house seats unopposed (yes, that is more than half!). Part of this is due to gerrymandered districts, but a large part of it is also due to our state's policy of shutting out voices of all but the socalled mainstream parties.

Personally, I am outraged by this attack on democracy, and I hope you are too.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ballot Security

Election workers in Rio Arriba County have done it again. According to stories in the Rio Grande Sun,, ballot boxes have been illegally opened since the election.

According to the stories, Rio Arriba County Clerk, Moises Morales, opened ballot boxes in his office without the required supervision of the county canvassing board or a district judge. Recently reelected district judge Sheri Raphaelson signed an order allowing the ballot boxes to be opened, but did not stipulate when or where, nor did she ensure that she or a representative be present. It is not clear how the boxes were opened since the district court was supposed to have one of the two keys necessary to open the boxes.

The ballot boxes were apparently opened in search of missing absentee ballots, which should not have been there in the first place. Add this to the fact that Rio Arriba did not report election results until very late (after 2:00 AM), due to ballot boxes not being delivered promptly by precinct judges. This is the same county that saw an election judge take home and keep overnight three ballot boxes during the Democratic Presidential Caucus in 2008.

We have done great work to go to an all paper ballot system in New Mexico, including meaningful audits of elections. But apparently, we still have a long way to go to ensure that the ballots are secure on election day and through the canvassing and auditing period.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Primary Election

Last week's primary saw a very low turnout, approximately 28% of eligible voters made it to the polls. And that 28% only includes people registered in one of New Mexico's two major parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. Another 200,000 New Mexicans are not even eligible to vote in primaries either because they are registered in other parties or they "decline to state" a party affiliation. Still more eligible voters have not even registered at all, meaning the percent of potential voters that participated in the primary this year is more like 10-15%.

How does the state justify spending over $4 million for an election in which only some taxpayers can participate? Considering the fact that about one out of three new registrants choose no party, it seems like time to change the way parties select their nominees.

The New Mexican's Steve Terrell has already brought up the idea of an open primary, in which any registered voter can vote in any party primary, but the parties are not too excited about letting "non-members" have a say in their decisionmaking process. Another idea being floated about is a "top-two" system, in which any voter can participate, and all the candidates for an office are listed together, with the top two vote getters, regardless of party, being listed on the general election ballot. This has been done in Washington state and is being looked at in other places.

We think the state legislature should take a good look at revamping the election system here in New Mexico. If all the taxpayers are funding these elections, then all voters should have a say. If the parties don't want to allow nonmembers into their nominating process, then the parties should pay for the elections themselves, as the Democrats do with their Presidential "caucus".

Whatever happens, we certainly need to do something to increase participation in our elections.