Thursday, January 27, 2011

HJR 2: Term limits for legislators

State representative Kintigh has introduced a joint memorial which would limit legislators to 12 consecutive years in office in either house. Senators would be allowed 3 four year terms, and representatives 6 two year terms.

HJR 2, if passed by both houses, is a constitutional amendment and would go to the voters at the November 2012 election.

We support these limits, and encourage our legislators to pass this resolution and send it on to the voters. Our exectutive branch and county officeholders are currently limited to 2 four year terms. It makes sense to also put limits on how long legislators can be in office.

Friday, January 21, 2011

School Board Elections

Tuesday, February 1, school board elections will be held around the state. I encourage everyone to inform themselves on the candidates and get out and vote.

In Santa Fe, the election is a combination of two elections. Both the public school board and the community college will be voted on. This is the first time that this has been allowed under state law, and will save a significant amount of money.

Unfortunately, the only polling place for the community college board election will be at the county clerk's office, so if you want to vote on election day, you will have to go to your normal polling place and the clerk's office.

On the bright side, if you vote early (in person absentee), you can cast both ballots in one location. Early voting hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM-5:00 PM. Early Voting ends Friday, January 28.

Information about polling places and a list of candiates can be found at the clerk's website,

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Legislature starts today

This year's legislative session will be much different than those of the past eight years. We will have much more presence by the Republicans, who picked up eight seats in the state House, making the Democratic majority only 37-33. In addition, there will be a Republican Lieutenant Governor presiding over the Senate, and Republicans in the Governor and Secretary of State offices.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be publishing information about specific election related bills as they become introduced. We encourage all of you to contact key legislators (including your own) as these bills move forward. One key committee, House Voters and Elections, will have at least two new members this year.

As usual, for the most up to date info on bill locations, see

I met with the new Secretary of State, Dianna Duran, last week. As a former county clerk and state legislator, she has a very good understanding of election law. I am very encouraged that she took the time to discuss our issues, and am optimistic that she will be open to supporting an independent redistricting commission, clarifying political party requirements, and eliminating the straight party ballot option.

Enjoy the pomp and ceremony of opening week. The real work starts soon!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

More Press on Ranked Choice

The following "My View" appeared in the Santa fe New Mexican on Saturday, January 8.

Ranked Choice Voting In Peril
by Rick Lass

In March, 2008, Santa Fe voters approved seven amendments to our city charter, including provisions for public campaign financing and ranked choice voting. At the time, I was quoted in this newspaper as saying that winning the election was the easy part, and getting the city to make the change would be the sticking point.

Fortunately, the city council acted to codify a specific system for public campaign financing, and details will be fleshed out in time for the 2012 elections. Ranked choice voting, however, has not received the attention needed to ensure that it also will be implemented in 2012.

City administrators have apparently decided that ranked choice voting would be too much work, and point to an escape clause in the charter language that requires "equipment and software for tabulation of available at a reasonable price." But, over a year ago, in October 2009, there was a demonstration conducted showing how ballots could be tallied using existing equipment and software. Nevertheless, the city council opted to delay implementation of ranked choice voting.

Unfortunately, the fact that Santa Fe residents voted overwhelmingly to adopt ranked choice voting does not necessarily mean that the city government will take the steps to make it happen. If we want ranked choice voting in place for the March 2012 elections, we need to continue to campaign for it.

Three California cities, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro all conducted their first ranked ballot elections last month, with positive results. Specifically, Oakland would have elected a mayor who had the support of only 34% of voters, but after the runoff was conducted, instead elected a woman who received over 50% of the vote. Santa Fe deserves to have elected officials who have majority support.

I urge everyone interested in fair elections and responsive government to call upon the mayor and your councilors and tell them that it is their responsibility to make sure Santa Fe uses ranked choice voting in 2012. Further delays are unacceptable.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ranked Choice Voting in Santa Fe

The following artice appeared in this week's Santa Fe Reporter, and is a good summary of the status of Ranked Choice Voting in Santa Fe.

What’s the (Voting) Matter?
Alexa Schirtzinger

Rick Lass, director of the electoral-reform group Voting Matters, is tired of talking about ranked-choice voting. The system allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference, which advocates say ensures candidates are elected by majority vote, and increases voter participation.

In 2008, Santa Fe voters approved a city charter amendment that called for ranked-choice voting as well as publicly funded campaigns—but neither has actually been implemented. (Santa Fe City Clerk Yolanda Vigil says a fund has been started for publicly financed campaigns but hasn’t yet been used.)

“I’m frustrated that I still have to work on this!” Lass, a former Green Party candidate for Public Regulation Commissioner, tells SFR. “Once you win an election, you should get to see your results.”

Lass says he’s been urging the City Council to pass an ordinance to allow ranked-choice voting, but to no avail—even though cities such as Oakland, Calif., have implemented it with success.

But Vigil says the city’s current voting machines are a problem. “The present equipment approved by the Secretary of State, the M100 Tabulator that we rent from the county, does not have the software capabilities to do ranked-choice voting,” Vigil says.

Lass, however, says the city could purchase other machines and approve them via city ordinance—if the political will were there. “We voted for it,” Lass says. “Now it’s incumbent on the City Council and the mayor to make it happen."