the north face duffel Independents in New Mexico face uphill fight to get on ballot
Senate to get 1,000 nominating signatures. Texas, a state of 28 million, requires those same candidates get signatures totaling 1 percent of the number of votes cast for governor.
New Mexico law requires independent candidates for statewide office to obtain signatures totaling 3 percent of the number of votes cast in the previous election for governor. Candidates from minor parties, such as the Green Party and Constitution Party, must get signatures totaling at least 1.5 percent.
Though that ends up as a smaller number than in Texas, it is a larger proportion of the number of votes cast.
Independent candidates for other offices must get signatures totaling 3 percent of the votes last cast for that office.
For example, an independent hoping to run for the 3rd Congressional District in Northern New Mexico must collect 4,450 signatures.
The Secretary of State’s Office issued the final numbers earlier this month.
Richard Winger, editor of the website Ballot Access News, said several states have eased requirements for independent candidates in recent years.
North Carolina and Pennsylvania, for example, both have lowered the number of nominating signatures required for independent office seekers. South Dakota recently approved a lower threshold for third party candidates.
Nebraska has gone the opposite direction, requiring a candidate to get nominating petition signatures from 10 percent of registered voters more than 100,000 people.
But aside from Nebraska, New Mexico has one of the higher thresholds for independent candidates when measured in proportion to population, Winger said.
This comes as viable candidates increasingly see a realistic possibility for running as an independent or with minor parties, he argued.
“The quality of people who are interested in running outside the two major parties is increasing dramatically,” Winger said.
Legislators in New Mexico, however, quickly shot down a proposal last year to ease the requirements for independents hoping to get on the ballot.
Sponsored by Rep. Jim Smith,
R Sandia Park, the measure would have brought the required number of signatures for independents more in line with the number required for Democrats and Republicans. The total would be pegged to the average required for candidates from the major political parties for that same office.
An independent running for secretary of state, for example, would only need 3,796 signatures instead of more than 15,000.
The measure died in committee.
To be sure, New Mexicans will have a few more choices than usual this year.
The Libertarian Party won easier ballot access after its presidential candidate, former Gov. Gary Johnson, claimed more than 5 percent of the vote in New Mexico during 2016 and cleared the threshold for the organization to get major party status.
Still, the Libertarians could face a challenge ahead. The party and the Secretary of State’s Office appear to disagree over what benchmark the party must meet to keep that status.
Bob Perls, an advocate for election reform with the group New Mexico Open Primaries, said the courts, not the Legislature, might be the most likely route for changing the state’s ballot access laws.
“The parties don’t want to give up their power,” Perls said, adding that the group may take the state to court this year both over the large number of nominating signatures required for independent candidates to get on the ballot and New Mexico’s prohibition on independent voters participating in primary elections.
The group contends both policies freeze out voters.
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