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Thursday, January 03, 2008

NM-03: Wiviott Files Suit Challenging Ballot Access Law; Asks Dem Field to Join Him

The Don Wiviott for Congress campaign issued the following statement today:

Santa Fe, NM – With speculation mounting that a new ballot access law will prevent New Mexico from having full and fair elections this November, Don Wiviott Thursday called on the entire field of Democratic candidates to join him in fighting for a more open political process this primary season.  Home builder Wiviott is a Democratic candidate for CD-03, the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Tom Udall.

Wiviott specifically took aim at House Bill 1156, which was signed into law last year. The bill severely limits the number of candidates that political parties can place on their primary ballots. Under the new law, parties can only place on their ballots those candidates that receive at least 20 percent of delegates at a pre-primary convention.  Under prior law, candidates were able to obtain access to the ballot by submitting additional nominating petitions from registered voters.

“This law runs contrary to the values of New Mexico and the Democratic party,” said Wiviott.  “Instead of giving primary voters the opportunity to hear and select from the full chorus of voices in the Democratic party, it seeks to limit access to the ballot to a well-connected few. There is no reason for such severe limits. Elections ought to be a contest of ideas, and open and fair to everyone.  We shouldn’t seek to restrict debate or cut some out of the process.”

As Wiviott noted, the new 20 percent threshold may have unintended consequences for the Democratic Party this Fall.  In races like the 3rd Congressional district where multiple candidates have announced their intention to run, a 20 percent threshold may be impossible for anyone to meet.  With so many candidates in the race, Democrats face the very real possibility that the delegate vote will be split so many ways that no candidate receives 20 percent.  Should that happen, the law has no provisions for review or appeal. Democrats would simply be left without a candidate on the primary and general election ballots in November.

“Without serious revisions in the law, we might see a scenario where Congressman Udall’s seat is simply handed to Republicans in November,” said Wiviott.  “We need a member of Congress who will fight for affordable health care and to end the War in Iraq , but under that scenario, New Mexico would lose its progressive voice in Washington.”

Wiviott continued, “This is really a civil rights issue.  Minorities -- especially Native Americans -- will find it tougher to get on the ballot throughout New Mexico under this new system.  That’s unacceptable.  New Mexico is about fostering diversity and this new ballot system will limit diversity and make it harder for some minorities to get on the ballot.  That doesn’t reflect our values.”

Wiviott added, “As I’ve met with the Democrats who will decide who gets on the ballot under this new system, I’ve been getting a very positive reaction so I expect to get on the ballot if this lawsuit fails.  But I got involved in this race to promote certain ideals, such as diversity and civil rights.  I’m filing this lawsuit because this new voting system fails those ideals.”

In order to open up the political process to everyone and ensure New Mexico voters have a choice this November, Wiviott said Thursday he has filed a suit in the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe to challenge HB 1156 and the restrictions it places on ballot access and on voter choice.  Wiviott said he hoped the entire field of Democratic candidates would join him in fighting the law.

“If there is one thing all Democratic candidates can agree on, it is that the Democratic primary should be open and fair,” said Wiviott. “Anyone who wants to participate should be able to compete.”

Wiviott said Thursday he has retained an attorney to oversee the suit and is awaiting word from other candidates about whether or not they will join his effort.

You can sign a petition in support of Wiviott's suit here.

To see our previous coverage of the 2008 NM-03 Congressional race, visit our archive.

January 3, 2008 at 11:57 AM in Election Reform & Voting, NM Legislature 2008, NM-03 Congressional Race 2008 | Permalink


Go Don! I think this law is antidemocratic and should never have been passed.

Posted by: red or green | Jan 3, 2008 1:52:02 PM

I think this legislation helps to make the party process relevant. In the past candidates could disregard, the will of rank and file party members, or even bypass the party process all together. Don must feel like he can't get 20% and wants to disregard the will for the Democratic Party.

Posted by: Amanda | Jan 3, 2008 3:11:45 PM

Fantastic news. Let's hope he wins. We should always take the side of democracy and prevent back-room candidate selection.

Posted by: t | Jan 3, 2008 3:15:42 PM

I'm not sure how I feel about this one. On the one hand I want the Party members to have some clout. On the other I think it can strengthen our candidates if we have races with candidates expressing many points of view.

What I don't like is that the provision requiring 20% of the delegates at the preprimary convention to get on the ballot was snuck into a bill and got zero coverage ahead of time so people could weigh in. It makes it look like a shady deal.

Let's let the courts decide.

Posted by: Old Dem | Jan 3, 2008 3:40:01 PM

Wow, this might be a good thing to ask Ben Ray Lujan about at tonight's meeting. Is he for it or against it? and why?

Posted by: T | Jan 3, 2008 4:45:25 PM

I do think the law is probably unconstitutional. I'm glad Wiviott has the guts to challenge it. He's a gutsy guy all the way around.

Posted by: lawyers guns and money | Jan 3, 2008 5:02:21 PM

This law should be challenged vigorously, on its face it seems kind of shady and reeks of the kind of "good old boy politics" that has led to way too much corruption.

Posted by: VP | Jan 4, 2008 7:53:19 AM

As I wrote on Mr. Wiviott's petition of support, "Thank you for standing up for Democracy, openness and fairness. I was SHOCKED to learn this quietly got signed in to law by Governor Richardson when I read the newspaper with this informaiton. Equally as Mr. Baca learned when he received a phone call advising him of this. I was so outraged myself.

Thank you. It looks like you are already being a voice for the people."

Posted by: Linda | Jan 4, 2008 9:53:32 AM

I have a different take. Many people worked very hard to get new blood and progressives involved in the Dem party structure. People ran for precinct and ward chairs and then SCC seats and preprimary delegates. I thought the process was very open and lots of new people got elected and have been working within the party to change it and build more clout so we can have an impact on who our candidates are.

Why should people who have refused to work within the party get more power in picking candidates? Get involved in the party and you'll have a vote. Soon there will be elections in precincts for delegates to the spring preprimary convention where party members will vote on who they want on the ballot. Nothing is stopping anyone from running and winning in their precincts. In fact in many precincts there aren't enough people to fill the slots they get.

If candidates who have never been active in rank and file Dem politics can bypass everyone and ignore the party platform and all the party members to get on the ballot I think that's bad not good.

The 20% thing was passed way before Domenici said he would retire so how would the legislators have known that Udall would run for senate and open up the congressional race up north?

I've seen a bunch of silly candidates run for office in the primaries and we don't need that if you ask me. If candidates want to run let them work their way up the party and work to get support at the rank and file level. Otherwise the party means next to nothing.

Posted by: Precinct Chair | Jan 4, 2008 12:22:42 PM