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

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.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Santa Fe fails again on Ranked Choice Voting

The third election cycle since Santa Fe voters overwhelmingly approved switching to Ranked Choice Voting begins in September, when city clerk Yolanda Vigil makes candidate nominating petitions available. Once again, the will of the voters is being trumped by uncooperative administrators.

And, for a change, we are not the only ones saying so. Check out these links to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press, and KRQE TV news stories, and the editorial below which was published in the Journal Santa Fe.

Democracy 101 – do what the voters say on candidates
By Journal Staff

It’s been six years since voters approved an important change in Santa Fe’s city election rules, but nobody at City Hall appears interested in following their direction.

As a result, the city’s next mayor has every chance of being elected by a small percentage of the electorate. In a crowded field – there are six declared candidates already and maybe more on the way – it wouldn’t be a surprise if as little as 20-25 percent of the vote is enough for victory.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Back in 2008, a hefty majority of Santa Fe city voters approved the use of ranked-choice voting, sometimes called “instant runoff” voting – after the City Council itself (not some outside special interest group) put changing the city charter on the ballot.

The theory of instant-runoff voting is that by casting ballots for several candidates in order of preference, voters can send a clearer message about who should win. As the votes are tallied, candidates with the least votes lose, with their votes then distributed among the other candidates according to voter-expressed preference. As the tally continues, one candidate eventually emerges with a majority and is declared the winner.

The idea is that it’s better to have a majority’s first or second choice win the election rather than someone with support from a smaller piece of the electorate.

That’s what the council presented to voters in 2008, and that’s what voters said they wanted. But the city clerk says she can’t implement such a system without new voting machines, and there’s enough red tape, not to mention expense, surrounding that process to have made it easy for city officials to have continued to let the change slide.

Mayor David Coss heaped additional insult on Santa Fe voters last week when he said he didn’t think they knew what they were doing when they approved the switch to instant runoff voting. If the vote had been a close one, the mayor might conceivably have a point, but it wasn’t close – fully 65 percent of voters said they wanted the change.

Coss went on to say that the city had better things to spend its money on than complying with the voter mandate.

There might not be much support for ranked-voting among candidates who are running in the March municipal elections, either; they may assess their chances of winning with a small fraction of the popular vote as significantly better than having to gain approval of more than 50 percent of voters in order to win.

Machines capable of tallying votes by ranked preference already exist. The city would have to pay for the new machines, it’s true. But in our view, it makes more sense to spend money on something 65 percent of the city electorate says it wants than, say, to blow $100,000 on an office makeover for the benefit of just three city Arts Commission employees – an action the City Council recently approved.

The City Council has also seen fit to put $5 million into other new office space in the Railyard and didn’t seem bothered when it found out that it had chosen to rehire a security guard firm that was underbid by more than $500,000 by a competitor.

It’s time the city clerk – and the City Council – heeded the voice of voters and made
the necessary changes in city election procedures. Or the council should put the matter back before voters again and make a valid case for abandoning ranked-choice voting.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hate Congress? Blame the System!

I read an opinion piece on the other day that inspired the following response. The original piece can be read at

The article “Hate Congress? Blame yourself”, by Linda Killian, published 8/2/13 on, makes some valid points but fails to find a remedy. The author's solution, that more people need to vote in major party primaries, is inconsistent with the evidence she presents. In reality, there are two related solutions to the current fiasco of a government not accountable to the majority of its citizens: First, eliminating the gerrymandered, single seat elections to Congress (and statehouses, for that matter). Second, make room for a multiparty democracy, like nearly every other democratic nation has.

After citing numerous polls that prove what everyone already knows- namely, that our Congressional Representatives do not really represent the majority of their constituents- the author correctly points out that gerrymandered districts encourage politicians to pander to the extremes in their party base, in order to win party primaries. Again the author correctly points out that in most cases by the time the general election rolls around the victor is a foregone conclusion. It is an unfortunate, but certain, fact of political life. And it leads to the vehement gridlock we see every day on Capitol Hill.

Independent redistricting commissions whose criteria are based on mathematical principles and demographic data, rather than protecting (or punishing!) incumbents or promoting the political power of one party or the other is a step in the right direction. But getting the state legislatures to create such commissions has proven nearly impossible. That is why Californians had to create one using a ballot initiative- an option not available in all states.

And, while open primaries look good on paper, in fact they are not a viable solution. First and foremost, political parties have an interest in keeping outsiders from interfering with their selection process. For example, Republican Party members voting in the primary have a much different goal than nonmembers. Members want the most Republican candidate to represent them, nonmembers want something else, perhaps the most moderate candidate, as suggested in the article.

Perhaps more importantly, open primaries fail on another level. Again according to Ms Killian's article, 46% of voters choose not to align themselves with a political party. This is probably because they don't align themselves with either parties' values, as expressed or in practice. The solution is not to ask independent voters to come vote in a party primary when they don't want to be a part of that party. The solution is to give voters more options, that is, more parties.

Most states have extremely restrictive ballot access laws for minor parties or individuals who choose to run unaffiliated with a party. For example, my state, New Mexico, required 2186 petition signatures to run in the Democratic primary for US Senator in 2012, but 18,084 signatures to run as a non-affiliated candidate. Further, to be considered a major party, and therefore have a party primary, a party's candidate for governor or president must have received at least 5% of the vote in the preceding election. Unfortunately, independents and swing voters are told they are wasting their vote on a candidate who can't win, or, worse, are spoiling the election by voting for the candidate of their choosing, so the 5% threshold is harder to attain than it appears.

In her article, Ms Killian quotes former PA Governor Rendell as saying to voters, “Get off your duff and do something.” I agree. But while Governor Rendell would have you participate in Democrat or Republican primaries, I urge you not to. Instead, insist that your state laws honor your decision not to be a member of one of the major parties. Fight for laws that enable minor party and independent candidates equal opportunity at the ballot box. Join or start a political party whose values you admire. Work to get the media to cover non-mainstream candidates and issues. Better yet- become the media and cover them yourself.

Finally, one last idea for a reform whose time has come: proportional representation. In Germany or Mexico, when the Green Party gets 20% of the popular vote, they get 20% of the seats in Congress. In the US, when Green Party candidates get 20% of the vote, they get called spoilers. Why shouldn't all voices, including minority voices, be represented in Congress?

Instead of a system that honors the opinions of all citizens by giving equal representation, we have a system that rewards extremists who pander to strict ideologies. Often, in the case of multicandidate elections, we even see people going to Washington with fewer than 50% of the votes cast, and that doesn't even count the voters who don't show up because they know in advance who will win. This isn't Democracy. It is a farce.