Sunday, February 21, 2016

Legislature Ends Without Passing Election Reforms

As expected, the legislature did virtually nothing this session to advance the cause of fair elections and voter participation. In spite of several Resolutions being introduced which would create independent redistricting commissions, automatically register voters, and mandate open primary elections, the legislature failed to act.

Likewise, bills and resolutions to create a state ethics commission and a full time legislature went down in flames. Apparently, legislators don't care that their constituents faith in government is at an all time low. Nor do they want to seriously address the fact that the 2014 election cycle saw the lowest voter participation rate since the Second World War.

The only demographic that seems to have benefited this session were those born between June and November, 2000. They will now be allowed to vote in the June 2018 primary elections, even though they will only be 17 at the time (if they register to vote in a major political party 28 days or more before the primary).

There's always next session...

Friday, January 29, 2016

2016 NM Legislature

Well, here we are again.

The New Mexico State Legislature began its "short session" last week. In spite of historically low voter participation rates, continuing corruption at the highest levels of state government, and if possible, increased levels of vitriol and hatred between the two major parties in the state, election reforms and government accountability are not issues that are taking center stage this year.

The governor more or less controls the agenda, so it is necessary to sneak good ideas into the discussion via resolutions and memorials.

A quick look at the agenda of the House Government, Elections, and Indian Affairs Committee (see last year's post on how this committee came to be) reveals that a few important ideas will at least get hearings. All of the following are proposed Constitutional Amendments, meaning that if passed, they will go to the voters in November.

HJR1 proposes to institute an independent redistricting commission, an idea Voting Matters has supported for over a decade.

HJR2 calls for universal registration of all qualified voters, which would eliminate one impediment to voter participation.

HJR3 would create a full-time, salaried legislature, as every other state now has.

HJR5 would establish an independent ethics commission to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by elected officials.

HJR12 would open the primaries to all voters, not just those registered in the major parties.

Time will tell if any of these ideas actually make it through the convoluted committee process for consideration on the floor.