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‘Democracy Dollars’ to be revived by commission

Ken Martinez

“Democracy Dollars” is not dead.

Bernalillo County commissioners are expected to revisit the issue and host a public hearing during a special meeting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

This comes after the measure to place the “Democracy Dollars” initiative on the November general election ballot failed by a 3-2 vote by Bernalillo County commissioners earlier this week.

Commissioners Steven Michael Quezada, Lonnie Talbert and James Smith cast dissenting votes to add the question on the November ballot, which is under county responsibility.

Commissioners Debbie O’Malley and Maggie Hart Stebbins, who voted in favor of the measure, requested the special commission meeting.

“After reviewing the county rules and some of the issues that are in play here, Commissioners Debbie O’Malley and Maggie Hart Stebbins both requested of Commissioner Quezada that he agree to hold a meeting on Tuesday to pull up this issue and to allow for specific public comment,” said Heather Ferguson, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico. “They agreed to do so, which is very exciting.”

Bernalillo County seal

Ferguson had said previously that Democracy Dollars places ” the power of public financing directly in the hands of Albuquerque’s citizens and gives them greater choice.”

County Attorney Ken Martinez said there are several ways the commission can legally reconsider a measure that has already been voted on.

“They’d have to look at what a motion to reconsider looks like or whether it is a motion anew or if there is going to be a suspension of the rules,” Martinez said. “It may be a combination of all three. We’ll look at that very carefully, then it would be up to the commission on how they want to proceed on that.”

If placed on the ballot, Albuquerque voters would consider the City Charter amendment adding Democracy Dollars to the city’s election code.

Under the proposal, registered city voters and voting-eligible residents would use the $25 Democracy Dollars coupons to contribute to their choice of qualified candidates. The candidates would then redeem the dollars with the city clerk, up to a limit, for funds to spend in support of their campaigns.

Election advocates had submitted a petition with more than 28,000 signatures to the City Clerk’s Office.

The proposal would direct the Albuquerque City Council to establish an ordinance providing for issuance and redemption of the coupons and change the date for municipal elections from its usual October date to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November on odd-numbered years.

During the last meeting, commissioners expressed concerns about the proposal, especially how the coupons would be distributed, used and tracked.

Advocates hope that the addition of coupons will spur more people to run for city office.

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