Monday, February 16, 2015

HB 346- Presidential Aspirations

HB 346 was introduced by Representative Nate Gentry, and would move New Mexico's primary elections from June to March. The goal of this bill, no doubt, is to give New Mexico more clout in the selection of Presidential candidates.

It is no secret that Governor Martinez has national ambitions, and an earlier primary could help her gain power as a kingmaker- New Mexico could see an influx of Presidential candidates if our primary is seen as influential.

Similarly, former governor Bill Richardson, when running for President, convinced the legislature and the Democratic Party to hold caucuses in February. These caucuses (which were not really caucuses, but party-run primaries) clearly gave Richardson a minor, temporary boost in his ill-fated run.

One has to wonder why Governor Martinez does not use the already existing presidential caucus system to boost her name recognition and New Mexico's influence in the national selection process. It would almost certainly be easier to convince the Republican Party to hold a caucus than to convince the legislature to move the primary for all elected offices, from President and Congress all the way down the ballot to county clerks and sheriffs.

There are a slew of issues with moving the primary forward by three months. One is addressed in the bill- namely, that party conventions would now have to be held in the holiday heavy month of December. This could keep a lot of everyday people from attending and increase the 'party hack' element that these conventions naturally attract.

Not addressed by the bill is the fact that most municipal elections are held in March. This would create confusion for voters as to which election to go vote for a candidate, as well as the need for voters to go to the polls twice in March (once for municipal elections and once for the primary).

Secondly, a March primary would be difficult for incumbent lawmakers, who are forbidden by law from soliciting donations while the legislature is in session- in even number years that is mid-January through mid-February- critical campaign time for a mid-March election.

Finally, a March primary would play havoc with newly formed and existing minor political parties, whose filing dates are by law three weeks after the primary. This issue is not addressed in the current form of the bill, either, and a federal court recently struck down new Mexico's April filing deadline as unconstitutionally early.

It is unfortunate that our leaders are more concerned about increasing their own standing than with dealing with the systemic problem of lack of participation in elections. The turnout at the 2014 party primaries was around 20%, and moving them to March is not about to address this travesty.

Real reforms that encourage quality candidates involve getting money out of politics via public campaign financing and strict limits on dark money groups, making elections competitive with independent redistricting commissions and proportional representation, and making sure every eligible citizen is registered to vote.

No comments:

Post a Comment