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Sponsor says bill allows special elections

Albuquerque and other New Mexico municipalities could hold special elections apart from regular election days under a bill awaiting final action on Gov. Susana Martinez’s desk, one of the bill’s sponsors said Thursday.

But there are some twists.

Under the bill’s terms, local special elections could be held only by mail, said Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, one of the bill’s sponsors during this year’s 30-day legislative session. And city councilors would have to approve a special election for it not to be held on a regular election day.

The 301-page bill, aimed at increasing voter participation, would consolidate most of New Mexico’s local elections. It specifically calls for most nonpartisan elections to be held on one day in November – rather than spread throughout the year – in odd-numbered years.

Some cities, including Albuquerque, would be required to move their elections to March in even-numbered years.

If the bill is signed into law, that would mean the earliest an Albuquerque ballot question – such as a proposed tax increase – could be placed before voters in a regularly scheduled election would be March 2020, because the legislation would not take effect until this July. However, a ballot question – including a tax increase question – could be brought before voters earlier if city councilors were to approve a special election.

Ivey-Soto said the changes are intended to increase participation rates in local elections, including special elections.

“The voters get confused (under the current system); they don’t know when an election is going on, and that’s when taxes get increased,” he said Thursday.

Meanwhile, the legislation, House Bill 98, would also expand current restrictions on when special elections can be held – from 50 days before or after a statewide election to 70 days before or after such an election.

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