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Candidate To Be Taken Off Ballot

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District Attorney Kari Brandenburg’s Democratic primary challenger Jennifer Romero was ordered stricken from the ballot because her nominating petition came up one valid signature short of the minimum, a district judge decided after a hearing Friday.

The order will be appealed, Romero said.

Second Judicial District Judge Alan Malott issued an order that said of the 1,187 signatures Romero submitted on her nominating petitions, 360 fail to satisfy the requirements of state law, leaving 827 valid signers of 828 needed.

As a consequence, her name is not eligible to appear on the June ballot, Malott said.

Malott also said Romero’s petitions were invalidated because of her failure to comply with the requirement that the district of the office sought be listed as required by statute.

“I can’t imagine that the New Mexico Supreme Court will enter an order that would silence the voice of so many New Mexicans,” Romero said after the hearing. “I expect to be back on the ballot. I have faith in our Supreme Court.”

Romero said Malott’s interpretation of the election laws served to disenfranchise certain groups of voters, such as students, who change addresses more frequently than others but are still legitimately registered.

Brandenburg, by contrast, said that while she respects Romero’s right to appeal, “It’s not about disenfranchising voters. It’s about meeting minimal standards … You should know what they are and follow them, and when you don’t, I don’t know that you can expect to be on the ballot.”

Meanwhile, a Tucumcari judge who heard Democratic challenges to the sufficiency of Republican incumbent district judges’ petitions reached a conclusion different from Malott in his case.

Judge Albert “Scooter” Mitchell, assigned to hear the cases after a blanket recusal was filed on behalf of all the 2nd Judicial District judges, rejected both requests to have the names of district judges Brett Loveless and Sam Winder stricken from the ballot because they did not list the number of the judicial district where they are seeking to keep a seat.

“We thought it was always clear that Winder and Loveless complied with the election code,” said their attorney, Hank Bohnhoff.

Mitchell’s oral ruling said with the incumbents’ petitions, which included the division they were seeking but not the district, it was “clearly … not a case where there’s an argument about any specific voter being confused. It’s not a case, basically, of argument of fraud.”

He said the state-approved petition forms don’t have enough room to write in all the particulars “unless you get so small that most of the voters in the state wouldn’t be able to read it without a magnifying glass.”

Metropolitan Court Judge Benjamin Chavez, a Democrat, has filed against Winder for the general election, and Metro Judge Briana Zamora is challenging Loveless.

Attorney Paul Melendres, who represents Zamora and Chavez, said the issue will be appealed but he was unsure if it would be taken up at a scheduled Tuesday hearing by the Supreme Court on election issues.

“It was going to end up in the Supreme Court anyway,” he said.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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