Our 2022 Legislative Session Priorities
30-day session begins today at NM State Capitol
The short, 30-day session of the New Mexico Legislature lifts off this week with an agenda limited to tax and revenue issues. However, the Governor can issue messages to the legislature to add items when she calls the legislature into session. This year, she’s adding a number of issues—criminal justice, hydrogen power, and even an issue near and dear to Common Cause—voting rights.
Constitutional Amendment to Allow Local Governments to Set Own Election Procedures
Our major priority this session is a Constitutional Amendment to amend Article 7, Section 5 of the constitution to allow local governments to modify their own election processes. This year marked the first election under the consolidated local elections plan passed by the legislature in 2018. As hoped, turnout in smaller elections for water conservation districts, school boards, and other lesser-known local authorities increased dramatically. However, there were some unexpected consequences. Without a provision for run-off elections in school board races, for example, many candidates in multi-candidate fields won with far less than a majority of the vote.
Albuquerque and other municipalities rectified this problem with run-offs years ago. In Las Cruces and Santa Fe, these run-offs occur automatically on election night, thus sparing the taxpayers another election. Local governments and school boards should have the ability to set their own election terms, but a constitutional amendment is needed for this common-sense reform.
The bill has been pre-filed and Senator Harold Pope will be carrying it in the Senate.
Major Voting Rights Bill
Even as some states enact laws to make voting more difficult and enable legislatures to overturn results they don’t like, New Mexico now has the chance to pass one of the most powerful voting rights bills in the country—all while preserving election security and integrity. The Voting Rights Bill proposed by the Governor and Secretary of State will continue some of the reforms that made voting easier during last year’s election including:
- expanded time to mail in ballots,
- a permanent, voluntary absentee ballot registration list
- easier automatic voter registration at the Motor Vehicle Department and other government agencies
- the ability to submit nominating petition signatures electronically
- the restoration of voting rights of those convicted of a felony who are not currently incarcerated
- the option to vote a straight party ballot.
- 16-year-olds granted the right to vote in local elections like school board races
- expanded cooperation with tribes to enable more early voting sites and drop boxes
- easier on-line registration
- creation of an election day holiday
Senator Peter Wirth will be the sponsor of the bill in the Senate with a House sponsor to be named soon.
Stay tuned for our calls to action and news about where these and other bills during the upcoming session. Once again, committee meetings and floor sessions can be accessed through the legislature’s website at www.nmlegis.gov More information on how to testify via zoom will follow.