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NM high court to hear Jeff case

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SANTA FE – The New Mexico Supreme Court will hold an appeal hearing next week on an attempt to toss Rep. Sandra Jeff, a maverick Democrat, off the June 3 primary election ballot for failing to turn in enough valid voter signatures.

The Wednesday hearing will happen more than a week after a district judge in Gallup dismissed a challenge against Jeff’s candidacy, ruling the three-term lawmaker was not adequately notified about the allegations.

The executive director of Conservation Voters New Mexico, an environmental group that is financing the case against Jeff, reacted to the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the appeal by saying important questions are at stake.

“We hope we can get to the heart of the issue of a fair voting process with the Supreme Court,” CVNM Executive Director Demis Foster said.

Meanwhile, the ongoing case against Jeff, who has bucked Democratic leadership by voting with Republicans on several key bills, has also prompted other legal action.

A hearing today in state District Court in Santa Fe will be held on a motion to bar Secretary of State Dianna Duran from printing primary election ballots with Jeff’s name on them. State law stipulates that Tuesday was the deadline for the Secretary of State’s Office to have the primary election ballot ready for printing.

However, because the Supreme Court has not yet heard the appeal, the motion claims holding off on printing ballots will “prevent a potentially confusing election, and the invalidation of that election and need to hold a new one, presumably under court order and supervision.”

Duran’s chief of staff, Ken Ortiz, said Tuesday that the Secretary of State’s Office is watching the Jeff case closely and must have a resolution by April 18, so that county clerks can mail ballots to military members and other overseas voters. The validity of 52 of the 91 voter signatures turned in by Jeff has been disputed. She was required to turn in at least 78 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Jeff, of Crownpoint, did not attend the Gallup court hearing last week. She later criticized those seeking to have her bumped off the primary ballot as “racist” and “out-of-touch.”

Two other Democratic candidates – Doreen Johnson and Charles Long – are running against Jeff in House District 5. No Republicans filed to run in the Democratic-leaning district, which encompasses a large swath of the Navajo Nation.

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