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Ethics Funding First Among 2020 Legislative Priorities for Common Cause New Mexico

Jan 11, 2020

Commentary: Common Cause New Mexico (CCNM) has announced its priorities for the 2020 legislative session. 

“We’re focused on fulfilling the promise made by the legislature to New Mexicans when it created the independent Ethics Commission,” Heather Ferguson, Common Cause Executive Director said. “We’re requesting that the legislature fully fund the Ethics Commission with $1.2 million to pay for adequate staffing, resources and office space."  

Over 75% of New Mexico voters mandated the Ethics Commission's creation in a 2018 constitutional amendment, and the legislature last year passed enabling legislation. Commissioners have been appointed, regulations promulgated, and the commission will start receiving complaints in January. 

The expansion of ranked–choice voting, where voters cast their ballot for candidates in order of preference, is another CCNM priority this year. Las Cruces and Santa Fe have already implemented this voting system, which automatically tabulates the voter’s candidate preferences if no one receives a voting majority in the first round. Ranked-choice voting saves money by avoiding a run-off and ensures the winner is supported by a true majority. CCNM is supporting a constitutional amendment to allow this voting system to be used in other elections across the state, including party primaries.

“New Mexico voters have regularly nominated candidates from a large field who received less than 50% of the vote. Expanding ranked-choice voting to party primaries will ensure the nominee truly represents the voice of the voting majority,” Ferguson said.

CCNM is also supporting a judicial reform bill to publicly fund District Court level races, in addition to the current public financing system which only funds the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals races. CCNM is proposing that this system, which works to curtail the massive amounts of dark money now going into judicial races in other states, be expanded to district courts. 

Several years ago, CCNM conducted a study that showed that the vast majority of our judiciary and members of the bar wanted to see public financing of all judicial races.  

“Expanding public financing to these races is the best way to ensure our judges are not engaging in potential conflicts of interest,” said Ferguson. “It allows them to focus on their community duty, court’s case dockets, not raising large campaign funds to run their elections.”  

As usual, after the session, legislators will be scored on Common Cause’s annual GPA scorecard based on their votes on the group’s top priorities. 

CCNM is also supporting several other measures, including funding for an accurate census count, a memorial for a redistricting task force, and funding for the Voter Action Act and the Secretary of State’s office.

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Common Cause is a non-partisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy.  It works to create an open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest; to promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and to empower all people to make their voices heard as equals in the political process.