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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

NM State House of Representatives Calls for Amendment to U.S. Constitution to Reverse Supreme Court's Citizens United Decision


A victory for the people
! A big Thank You goes out to every Democratic Legislator and Independent Rep. Nunez and the one lone brave R, Rep. Tripp of Socorro.

House Memorial 4, sponsored by State Representative Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque, was approved by a 38-29 vote in the New Mexico State House of Representatives today. HM4 puts the House on record calling for the Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission -- a ruling that has resulted in an explosion of unlimited, and often undisclosed, Super PAC spending in the current Republican presidential nominating process.

"Today, the New Mexico State House of Representatives took a stand for our nation's democracy and the intent of our Constitution, which values the voices of individuals over the voice of money," said Viki Harrison of Common Cause New Mexico. "This legislation is significant because it puts New Mexico on record in support of a Constitutional amendment that will eventually require ratification by 38 states."

Representative Don Tripp of Socorro was the lone Republican to vote in favor of the bill. Three other Republicans -- Paul Bandy, David Chavez, and Bob Wooley -- were recorded as absent for the vote on HM4. All House Democrats and independent Andy Nunez of Hatch voted in favor.

In her opening remarks about the legislation, Rep. Stewart noted that largely due to the Citizens United ruling, more than $20 million had been spent by Super PACs in Florida in the last week alone.

Rep. Gail Chasey (D-Bernalillo) and Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas (D, Bernalillo) discussed the long tradition of popularly-supported campaign finance regulation in the United States that has held that corporate spending in elections should be either prohibited or strictly regulated.

As a House Memorial, the legislation needs no further approval or signatures, although similar expressions of opposition to Citizens United are contained in at least three other memorials.

The current impact of Super PAC spending has already been evident in the Republican presidential primaries. Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino mogul, contributed two $5 million checks to a SuperPAC supporting Newt Gingrich. 

Senator John McCain recently called the Citizens United decision the worst Supreme Court decision in history.

A vast majority of small businesses across the nation are also concerned about the impact of the decision. In a recent survey, 66% said the ruling was "bad for business." In an opinion editorial in the Albuquerque Journal last weekend, Albuquerque small business owner Joshua Fristoe of Kosh Solutions noted that "when I make decisions about where to invest in our business, I prefer to do so in innovation and business development. Increasingly, the assumption seems to be that underwriting political campaigns should just be accepted as just another cost of doing business." 

January 31, 2012 at 08:10 PM in Citizens United, NM Legislature 2012, U.S. Constitution | |

02/10 and 02/11: Film Festival To Highlight Water Issues

"It's All About Water -- Films and Conversation," a two-day film festival and public forum, will explore concerns about the pollution of our waters and water sustainability, including discussion of issues in the Southwest, New Mexico and Albuquerque.

The festival will be held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10-11, at Albuquerque's South Broadway Cultural Center, 1025 Broadway Blvd. SE.  Doors open at 4:45 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. on Saturday.  Admission is free and light refreshments will be provided.

"The purpose of the festival is to spark thought by showing the films and to give participants a chance to talk about concrete steps we can take to address our concerns," said festival organizer Susan Selbin.

Eight films will cover issues ranging from city water infrastructure and water in the Southwest to the impacts of oil/gas development and the worldwide privatization of water.  In panel discussions following the films, local officials, film producers and activists will detail the local implications of issues described in the films.  Audience members will be encouraged to ask questions and raise relevant topics.

At a brown-bag lunch (participants bring own lunches) after the Saturday morning sessions, those interested will be invited to talk about steps for addressing local water-related problems.

Panelists are:

Friday:  Gwen Lachelt, the Oil and Gas Accountability Project; Debra Anderson, producer of "Split Estate";  Kathleen Dudley and Don Hamilton of Drilling Mora County;  Darleen Gomez, an attorney raised on a ranch with a "split estate";  Nadine Padilla, coordinator of the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment.

Saturday:  Kathy Verhage, Albuquerque Stormwater Management; David Price, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority; Bruce Thomson, Director of UNM Water Resources Program; Paul Robinson, the Southwest Research and Information Center.

Also Saturday: James Maestas, South Valley Regional Association of Acequias; Steve Harris, Rio Grande Restoration; Elaine Hebard, water policy expert; Dave Gutzler, professor, UNM Earth and Planetary Science Department.

Films are:

Friday:  "Natural Gas from Shales:  Some Myths and Realities"; "Split Estate"; "Tipping Point."  Saturday morning:  "Liquid Assets"; "American Southwest:  are we running dry?" 

Saturday afternoon:  "Water for the World Act of 2011"; "Tapped"; "Blue Gold."

For a detailed schedule and updates, please go to

January 31, 2012 at 07:09 PM in Environment, Events, Water Issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

Guest Blog by Hakim Bellamy: With Media and Justice for All: Media Justice as Anti-Racism Work

027 cropHakim Bellamy is the Strategic Communications Director at Media Literacy Project

Last week, Media Literacy Project (MLP) attended the Second Annual Anti-Racism Day at the New Mexico State Legislature. Having served on the planning committee for this day of action, convened by the New Mexico Health Equity Working Group and the Deconstructing Racism Group, MLP had a chance to reflect on the anti-racism aspects of our work. Recently, we have been protecting the cyber frontier from corporate colonization through our opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), both in Congress.

Racism often frames the environment in which the most horrific human rights abuses occur. The human right to communication is certainly threatened by SOPA and PIPA, making freedom of speech the dominant argument in these debates currently happening in the U.S. House and Senate, respectively. However, these companion bills that were initially supported by a majority of the New Mexico Congressional Delegation have a more acute impact on communities of color. With Anti-Racism Day fresh in our minds, we must at least acknowledge the disparity of that impact on our communities.

The intentionally deceptive use of language by supporters of SOPA and PIPA is something that disproportionately impacts people of color and therefore, disproportionately impacts New Mexico. The good news is that this deceptive language is not lost on folks who work in the fields of media justice and creative arts. The idea that the SOPA and PIPA legislation was designed out of some altruistic concern of Congress to protect “the starving artist” is an utterly absurd frame. Yet, this is the frame that they have been using, with some success, to get artists to support protecting intellectual property at the expense of freedom. The reality is that the content owners, not the content creators, are the ones lobbying this legislation through Congress. As an organization whose work is reliant upon content created by cultural workers and artists in the Southwest, we want to see the fair use and fair compensation of our partners and collaborators protected.

At the same time, we know that the most innovative and democratic model for communication and artistic distribution ever created is the Internet. The Internet is a threat to the corporate model of gatekeeping content, communication and culture for profit. Much like the artists that work in your community, the artists we work with are more likely to make a living from their art because of the Internet, not in spite of it. Rarely are these artists in the economic stratosphere of “1%ers” who have to concern themselves with how the Internet is cutting into their movie, television or music profits. As an artist, I suspect that for artists of color approximately 99 percent of us fall into the former category.

It is not the content creators who stand to see a windfall of profit if SOPA and PIPA become law; it is the content owners who want to make sure that they remain the middle man between the artist and the audience. In the scope of anti-racism theory, the economics of this dynamic can best be explained with a plantation analogy. The plantation gets the harvest of the artist for next to nothing, and then keeps all the market profit.

However, the corporate owners have been faced with a revolt. Their attempt to put a noose around the Internet has been met with great opposition. Their attempts to control the market and bully us into giving up our freedom, is failing. Community artists figured out that working for themselves could provide much more creative and economic freedom than slaving for the owners, and have been doing so since the advent of the digital revolution in the 1980s. Essentially, the Internet has emancipated poor people (read: artists) and communities of color from having their talent, their issues and their culture ignored or marginalized as not universal enough or not profitable enough.

So as we all apply this idea of anti-racism to the work that we do, please consider how difficult it would be for us to do the work of bringing people of all colors together without being able to share our culture freely? How would we realize the anti-racist world we seek without being able to communicate our songs, our images and our stories? Where else might we share our languages, our traditions, and our truth? It was the Internet that gave consumer advocates, web experts and media justice advocates the power to stop SOPA and PIPA from seeing a vote. That power to catalyze change is precisely the quality of the Internet that proponents of this legislation seek to eliminate.  We ask that you write your Congressperson and Senators and tell them to leave the Internet open and free...with media and justice for all.

January 31, 2012 at 06:36 PM in Action Alerts, Guest Blogger, Media, Net Neutrality, NM Legislature 2012, Racial Minorities | |

Sierra Club Northern New Mexico Group Releases Candidate Endorsements and Bond Support

Below are the endorsed candidates and bond questions recommended by the Northern New Mexico Group of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter. Detailed candidate endorsements are attached for all four districts. The Northern New Mexico Group researched these bond questions and candidates thoroughly, and we urge Santa Feans to support them in the upcoming municipal election:

Candidates for Santa Fe City Council:

District 1: Patti Bushee

Councilor Bushee has been a long history of advocating for environmental issues, development of clean energy and responsible water use in her many years on the City Council.

District 2: Peter Ives

Ives, a new candidate running for this open seat, has worked as in-house counsel for the Trust for Public Land for 14 years and demonstrates a commitment to increasing awareness of sustainability in Santa Fe and protecting its water sources

District 3: Christopher Rivera

Rivera, also a new candidate running for an open seat, displays a strong knowledge of water issues and a concern for long-term planning to keep resources plentiful for future generations of Santa Feans.

District 4: Carol Robertson Lopez

Robertson Lopez is a former city councilor with superb knowledge of water issues and a strong record of advocating for smart water-conservation strategies

See more information on these candidates here.

Vote "yes" on the following bond questions:

Question 2: $14 million for Trails and Parks.

Question 3: $3.8 million for sustainable environmental projects.

January 31, 2012 at 06:13 PM in 2012 Santa Fe County Election, Candidates & Races, Land Issues, Santa Fe County Commissioner | |

Senate Release Tax Reform Initiative

Members of the Senate Democratic Caucus gathered today to discuss their ideas for tax reform proposed in this session. Senators Morales, Eichenberg, Fischmann and Wirth, as well as Majority Leader Sanchez laid out several bills that would make the New Mexican tax code more fair.

"We know we need to reform the tax code to make sure it is fair to New Mexico's small businesses and our working families," Senator Sanchez said. "We want to protect the mom and pop shops here, by making sure there is a level playing field with out of state corporations."

The three bills included in the first round of tax plans are SBs 9, 74, and 145.

Senator Peter Wirth introduced Senate Bill 9, and focuses on lowering the overall tax rate for businesses, and making sure that out of state corporations pay the same rate as in state ones.

"Its a win-win for New Mexico businesses," Senator Wirth said. "Senate Bill 9 creates one set of rules for businesses that pay the corporate tax. And, by broadening the tax base, we can lower the tax rate without impacting the state budget."

Senate Bill 74 is a bill that would reduce the gross receipts tax pyramiding on business to business transactions for professional services, and would pay for the change mandating combined reporting, a reduction in capital gains deduction, and an increase in the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax, and a repeal of the trade in allowance. Senate Bill 145 would maintain the three percent increase limit on property taxes, which would ease the burden on New Mexicans looking to buy a new home.

"These ideas that we are presenting are not the same old push for new revenue," said Senator Howie Morales. "We are serious about putting in place lasting tax reform that works for New Mexicans and holds corporations accountable."

January 31, 2012 at 03:12 PM in Business, Jobs, NM Legislature 2012, Taxes | |

CITIZEN'S UNITED: Republicans Secretly Flip-Flop Votes

The following post can be seen in full on the ProgressNowNM blog.

In November, when you enter the voting booth and mark your ballot, you don't get a chance to go back later and change your vote, do you? It's part of the concept of transparency that is an integral element of our view of Democracy.

To see entire post go to ProgressNowNM.

January 31, 2012 at 02:24 PM in Citizens United, NM Legislature 2012, ProgressNow New Mexico | |

Rep. Martin Heinrich Campaign for NM Senate Seat Releases Polling Results

The following was provided by the Martin Heinrich for Senate Campaign.

146A new poll of Democratic primary voters in New Mexico shows Martin Heinrich with a commanding lead over Hector Balderas, 52 – 22 percent. Heinrich’s standing is very strong and his lead is built on more than name identification – he leads by a huge margin among voters who can identify both candidates, 51 – 28 percent.

The following are key findings from a survey of 600 likely Democratic primary voters in New Mexico conducted January 8th – 11th, 2012. The survey was conducted by live interviewers, reaching voters on land lines and cell phones. The results are subject to a 4.0 percentage point margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level.

• Democratic primary voters view Heinrich incredibly favorable. 58 percent of voters give Heinrich a favorable rating, while just 12 percent view him unfavorably. Moreover, 66 percent of voters approve of the job Heinrich is doing as Congressman. Heinrich’s standing is equally good among Hispanics and Anglos. Balderas has good standing (37 – 12 percent favorable-unfavorable, 46 percent job approval), but nowhere near as good as Heinrich’s.

• Heinrich overpowers Balderas in a vote matchup. With a 52 – 22 percent lead, Heinrich dominates Balderas among every segment of the electorate. He leads 57 – 15 percent among Anglos and 46 – 30 percent among Hispanics. Heinrich also holds a strong lead in each of the state’s three congressional districts.

• Heinrich’s lead is very robust. Heinrich’s lead is not driven by name identification; he leads 51 – 28 percent among voters who can identify both candidates.

Vote among all likely voters:
Martin Heinrich 52% 
Hector Balderas 22%
Undecided 26%

Vote among voters who can identify both candidates:
Martin Heinrich 51%
Hector Balderas 28%
Undecided 21%

January 31, 2012 at 01:27 PM in 2012 NM Senate Race, Candidates & Races, Polling, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) | |

NM-1: Progressive Democrats of America Endorses Eric Griego for Congress (NM-1)

045The following endorsement release is from the Eric Griego for Congress Campaign.

On Monday, Eric Griego for Congress announced its endorsement by Progressive Democrats of America (  PDA is a national grassroots PAC working to support progressive candidates and to “revitalize the Democratic Party built on firm progressive principles.”

Griego’s latest endorsement is yet another indication of his strong momentum quickly consolidating the progressive base of the Democratic Party for his congressional campaign.

“I’m honored that the Progressive Democrats of America have decided to join labor unions, environmental groups, and other progressive organizations to help me win this important election for New Mexico’s working families,” Griego said.  “Together, we will work hard to fix what’s broken in Washington by limiting corporate influence in our democracy and fight for the American Dream for all.”

“Working families throughout America are under assault by Republicans and powerful corporate interests working for a 1%-only agenda, and that’s why we need more real champions for the 99% like Eric Griego in Congress,” said Tim Carpenter, PDA’s executive director.  “From passing real campaign finance and ethics reforms in Albuquerque to investing in clean energy jobs to build the middle class and standing up for worker rights, Eric has an impressive record of making our government more responsive to the people and getting things done for working families.”

“Eric has the steadfast principles and the passion to fight for the 99% of us,” said New Mexico community organizer Laura Stokes.  “With Eric, we know what we’re getting in our representative: a genuine progressive fighter for working families.”

“Eric Griego is the only candidate in the race who has fought consistently for bold reforms to fix our broken campaign finance and ethics laws,” said New Mexico progressive activist Bill Kass.  “He introduced and passed one of the country’s only public financing of elections in the city of Albuquerque and continues to fight tirelessly for more responsive government for all of us.”

January 31, 2012 at 10:10 AM in Candidates & Races, Eric Griego, NM Legislature 2012 | |

SB 200 Guts Land Conservation Easements – Eliminating Incentives to Preserve Ecologically Important Lands for Future Generations

Kathy_SF CountyGuest blog by County Commissioner Kathy Holian.

Senator Phil Griego (D) has introduced SB 200  to drastically constrain the program of economic incentives that underpins conservation easements in New Mexico. Through Griego's bill, the Martinez administration is attempting to limit the scale and availability of tax credits to any landowner who wishes to put land under a conservation easement (CE).

The existing Landowner Conservation Incentive Act (LCIA) (Sec. 75-9-1 et seq. NMSA 1978) gives a landowner the ability to preserve land that is rich in ecological, cultural, recreational, or agricultural values, and obtain a NM tax credit up to $250,000, or half the value, whichever is less, of the donation of development rights. Moreover, the donation as a CE is, at present, transferable: for example, if a farmer has valuable arable land that he or she wishes to maintain in that condition (i.e., without being paved over by a housing development or parking lot or shopping mall), then the LCIA makes it possible to sell the tax credit, even when the farmer doesn't have enough tax liability to make it worthwhile for himself or herself.

"Land-rich, but cash-poor" is no longer a handicap for the farmer's (or rancher's) bottom line; his or her donation can be plowed back into the farm or ranch. Having a tangible economic benefit for the owner of agricultural land helps to preserve it, in perpetuity: for growing our food locally, or for keeping it in rangeland, or for preserving its scenic beauty and wildlife. In the last seven years, over 44,000 acres, with a total donation value of over $41 million, have been permanently protected at a minimal cost to taxpayers.

Griego's bill, SB200, would eliminate out-of-state landowners from the LCIA program, regardless of the conservation-worthiness of their land; would increase the tax burden to participants by converting capital gains to ordinary income, thus reducing their return; and would eliminate tax-relief benefits to NM businesses who purchase tax credits; would penalize married couples and families that jointly own land by limiting the number of tax credits; would institute a 5-year spacing requirement. This latter provision would make it nearly impossible to protect larger landscapes in phases or to work with landowners who own multiple, separate parcels worthy of conservation. By instituting a 5-year holding period, SB200 would eliminate tax credits and land protection as a financing tool, particularly for keeping land active in ranching or farming. SB200 eliminates nonprofits or conservation organizations from using CEs and redefines conservation purposes, thereby eliminating agricultural land as a conservation purpose under NM State Law. Finally, the Natural Land Protection Committee would be eliminated, so that there would be no public hearing process for the LCIA program.

SB 200 virtually guts the LCIA program. His bill is a frontal assault on land conservation in the State of New Mexico. If SB 200 passes and is signed into law, New Mexico will lose many benefits.

● Economic Development. Conservation easements on working, agricultural lands support a local and more resilient economy by circulating dollars within our rural communities, and conservation easements on scenic lands help promote and protect the State’s tourism industry.

● Jobs & Financial Benefits. Conservation easements enhance New Mexico’s outdoor recreation industry (which contributes $3.8 billion annually to New Mexico’s economy and supports 47,000 jobs) and New Mexico’s agricultural sector (which contributes $3.39 billion annually to New Mexico’s economy and supports 23,000 jobs).

● Financial Alternative. The proceeds from the sale of tax credits allowed by the Land Conservation Incentives Act provide a reasonable alternative to landowners who are under economic pressure to sell their water rights or subdivide and sell portions of their family land.

● Voluntary. Conservation Easements are completely voluntary; no landowner has ever been forced to donate a conservation easement, nor can the government “take” a conservation easement through the exercise of eminent domain.

● Hunter Friendly. Although conservation easements typically do not require public access, conservation easements on lands with wildlife habitat are hunter-friendly because they benefit wildlife (by providing wildlife corridors and protecting existing wildlife habitat) and because game species roam between privately conserved lands and public lands.

● Alternative Energy. Conservation easements can be drafted to support limited alternative energy infrastructure that allows landowners to diversify their energy resources in pursuit of continued, effective management of their family lands.

● Culture & Heritage. Conservation easements on agricultural land rein in sprawling development and help preserve New Mexico’s cultural heritage and longstanding, traditional way of life.

● Food Security. Conservation easements on working farms and ranches help to protect our local food supply, maintain the integrity of our local food economy, and support New Mexico’s thriving—and growing—farmers’ markets.

● Minimal Fiscal Impact/Substantial Conservation Benefit. Over its seven year history, the fiscal impact of the Land Conservation Incentives Act has been less than $3 Million, yet has conserved over 44,000 acres of land, the conservation portion of which is valued at over $40 Million. In other words, the program has resulted in more than $10 of land conserved for every $1 claimed as a tax credit.

January 31, 2012 at 06:30 AM in Land Issues, NM Legislature 2012, Taxes | |

Monday, January 30, 2012

NM Green Chamber Applauds New Survey Demonstrating Strong Public Support for Renewable Energy Jobs

Bipartisan Survey Finds Seventy Percent of New Mexico Voters Recognize that Renewable Energy Creates Jobs, Seventy-One Percent Support State's Renewable Energy Standard.

The New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce President Lawrence Rael applauded today's results from the 2012 Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll, which found that New Mexico voters across the political spectrum strongly support renewable energy jobs and want to get more of their electricity from renewable energy. Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm) and Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (a Democratic firm) conducted the survey for Colorado College.

"This bipartisan survey shows that New Mexicans understand that renewable energy creates jobs and they want more of their electricity to come from wind and solar power-a lot more," said Mr. Rael. "This survey should be a clear guide to policymakers at the PRC and state government, as to how strongly the public desires more renewable energy jobs and generation."

The NM Green Chamber of Commerce highlighted a few key results:

• Seventy percent of New Mexico voters feel increasing the use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power will create new jobs in New Mexico.
• Seventy-one percent of New Mexico voters want the existing standard for the amount of energy to be obtained from renewable energy sources, which is currently 20 percent by 2020, to be kept in place while 24 percent want to see this standard lowered.
• Sixty-six percent of New Mexico voters think the highest priority for meeting America's energy needs should be reducing our need for more coal, oil and gas by expanding our use of clean, renewable energy that can be generated in the U.S., compared to 28 percent that think the highest priority should be drilling and digging for more coal, oil, and gas wherever we can find it in the U.S.
• The two energy sources New Mexico voters want to encourage the use of most are solar power (66 percent) and wind power (52 percent).
• The energy source New Mexico voters want to discourage the use of most is coal (63 percent).

New Mexico Results you can see here.

Western Energy Results you can see here.

January 30, 2012 at 02:58 PM in Building Code Energy Efficiency, Energy, Environment, Jobs, NM Legislature 2012 | |

02/03: Support Fair Business Taxes, Renewable Energy, and Encourage Local Incentives!

The New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce
will be hosting a
legislative action day for our members in Santa Fe on
Friday, February 3rd.

What is the Green Chamber Legislative Action Day?
An opportunity for you to talk with your legislators about the issues important to your business.

What will I have to do?
Come to Santa Fe on February 3rd. We will train you on talking to your legislator and make sure that you understand the issues and talking points on legislation important to you and our Green Chamber members across the state.

Top Four Reasons you should attend:
1. Advocate for a Level Playing Field for Small Business
2. Keep New Mexico Investing in Clean Energy
3. Encourage New Energy Efficient Construction
4. Network with Important Decision Makers and Like-Minded Businesses

Legislative Action Day Agenda : Friday, February 3rd

One-page Issue briefs on top five key issues to be provided to all participants by Wednesday February 1. 

NMGCC has a block of rooms on hold at Garrett's Desert Inn for $69 per room including parking (tel 800-888-2145). The Inn is located one-block from the New Mexico Legislature.

7-8:30 AM NMGCC Directors Legislative Breakfast
Location: Garrett's Desert Inn 311 Old Santa Fe Trail Santa Fe, New Mexico 

9AM Lobby Day Training Briefing Welcome: Lawrence Rael, President, NM Green Chamber of Commerce
Issue Review: Allan Oliver, CEO, NMGCC

Lobbying Tactics: Traci Cadigan, Board of Directors, NMGCC
Location: Garrett's Desert Inn

10:30AM Constituent Businesses Lobby Senators, Representatives on House/Senate Floor

12:30-1PM Rolling Debrief/Brown Bag Lunch with NMGCC staff: Location: to be confirmed

2pm Legislative Committee Hearings

5pm+NMGCC Green Drinks:  Location: to be confirmed

Please RSVP by Wednesday, February 1st to .
This will help us plan to have materials ready and your legislators identified before you arrive.
To see entire flier click here: Support Fair Business Taxes, Renewable Energy, and Encourage Local Incentives!.

January 30, 2012 at 09:00 AM in Action Alerts, Building Code Energy Efficiency, Energy, Environment, Green Economy, NM Legislature 2012 | |

Voter Suppression at the Roundhouse - Guest Blog by Paul Stokes

Paul stokesFollowing is a guest blog by Paul Stokes. Paul has been engaged in election integrity activities since the 2004 election.

The voter suppression crowd doesn’t give up easily.  Paul Weyrich, co-founder of ALEC and the Heritage Foundation, famously said, “I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

Cathrynn Brown, R-Eddy, has introduced HB 113, an almost identical photo voter ID bill to the one introduced last year at the New Mexico Legislature.  That bill didn’t pass, but it was close in the House, and we must do everything we can to make sure that it doesn’t pass in the current Legislature.

Let the people voteThe proponents of photo voter ID do not admit that its purpose is to suppress the vote.  No, they say that it is necessary to prevent voter fraud.  This flies in the face of numerous studies that have shown that the incidence of voter fraud is rarer than being struck by lightning.  The truth is that New Mexico already has an effective voter ID requirement.  Its effectiveness is confirmed by my favorite study conducted by the Republican National Lawyers Association that found that three persons were charged with voter fraud in New Mexico over the last ten years.  Two of those were by election officials who opened a ballot box during the county canvass without the required approval of a district judge – probably an unintentional oversight - and one was a person illegally registered in Texas and New Mexico who voted both places – for himself as a candidate for judge in New Mexico no less.  Notice that none of these cases would have been prevented by photo voter ID.

On the other hand, studies have shown that about ten percent of the voting population does not have a photo ID.  Sure, special IDs may be purchased (or you may sign a statement saying you don’t want to pay) for voting purposes.  But some will forget or have difficulties getting to an office issuing the photo IDs.  The elderly, students, minorities, the poor, and persons with disabilities are the most likely to be affected by a requirement to have a photo ID to vote.

There is no doubt that the attempts to suppress the vote are being done for political purposes.  Over the last year, thirty-four state legislatures have passed or introduced legislation for photo voter ID.  In many cases, other voter suppression methods such as limiting or ending early voting were also included.

The New Mexico constitution says that “All elections shall be free and open, and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.”  A photo voter ID requirement will prevent some qualified voters from voting.  The proponents of photo voter ID say that a photo ID is needed to rent a movie, so why not for something as important as voting.  The reason, of course, is that voting is a constitutional right guaranteed by both the US and New Mexico constitutions, while renting a movie is a privilege granted by a vendor.

It is unfortunate that the average citizen doesn’t have the time to consider all these facts.  It just seems natural amongst many of us who have a driver’s license that photo voter ID makes sense.  So, polls consistently show that a majority of the public believes that voting should require a photo ID, and our state senators and representatives feel the pressure.  Please write, call, or visit your legislators and tell them that a photo voter ID requirement is unfair and that you want them to vote against it.

January 30, 2012 at 06:13 AM in Election Reform & Voting, Guest Blogger, NM Legislature 2012 | |