New Mexico Governor Signs Ballot Access Improvement Bill

On March 7, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez signed HB 368, which makes three ballot access improvements: (1) the petition deadline for a newly-qualifying party moves from April to late June; (2) signatures on that petition are presumed valid and do not need individual checking; (3) the number of signatures for a different type of petition, the nominee petition, are reduced from 1% of the last vote cast, to 1% of the last gubernatorial vote. That last change has no impact in presidential election years, but it lowers the number of signatures in midterm years by approximately 25%. For 2014, the nominee petitions for statewide office will be 6,018 signatures. The bill takes effect immediately.

This bill only came into existence because in December 2013, the Constitution Party won its lawsuit against the April petition deadline. Frequently when a minor party or independent candidate wins a constitutional lawsuit on one point, the legislature responds favorably by not only fixing the law declared void, but also makes other improvements.

New Mexico is the only state that requires a petition for a party nominee. The requirement was passed in 1969 and does not apply to presidential nominees. The requirement only applies to qualified minor parties, not qualified major parties. The nominee petition requirement is illogical. Once a candidate has been nominated by a ballot-qualified party, that candidate should be deemed to have a modicum of popular support and should not need his or her own separate petition. Maryland once had such nominee petitions but the State Appeals Court ruled them unconstitutional in 2003.

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