Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Legislative Priorities

Voting Matters has announced our 2011 legislative priorities. We are planning on focussing on three areas this session- Redistricting, Ballot Access, and Fair Ballots. Here are our position statements on the three.

In addition, we expect to support other election related bills, including banning political campaign contributions from state contractors and lobbyists, allowing election day voter registration, allowing parties to nominate candidates who are not party members (often called "fusion"), protecting and expanding public campaign financing, and others. More details will follow as the session unfolds.

1) Independent redistricting commissions

Fair elections are too easily skewed when sitting legislators are given control over how their district boundaries are drawn, or when a party in majority is allowed to draw congressional boundaries. Rather than call a costly special session of the legislature to draw district boundaries, which in all likelihood will end up in a drawn out court battle, it would be more prudent to appoint a nonpartisan or multipartisan task force with specific criteria to determine the new districts.

2) Ballot access and political party qualifications

New Mexico has some of the nation's most difficult provisions for non-major party candidates seeking to be on the ballot. In addition, statutes pertaining to qualifications of political parties are so ambiguous that they have been interpreted differently by different Attorneys General and Secretaries of State. At the very least, this language should be cleaned up to give potential parties and candidates a clear understanding of their requirements, and preferably, these requirements should be eased so as to give voters maximum choice on Election Day.

3) Eliminating Straight Party Ballot Option

The straight party option on NM ballots is confusing and discriminatory. There appears to be no mechanism in law allowing the straight party option to be included on the ballot, yet it is. Repeal of the relevant statute (section 1-12-53) in 2009 did not prevent the option from being included in 2010. And, oddly, in 2006 minor parties with candidates on the ballot had a straight party option, yet in 2008 they did not. In addition, there is general agreement among county clerks and election workers that the option is confusing to voters. It should be explicitly forbidden.