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Proposal would boost ballot access for independents

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Rep. Bill Pratt, D-Albuquerque

SANTA FE — House Speaker Brian Egolf is fast-tracking legislation that would make it easier for independent candidates to make it on the ballot in New Mexico.

The proposal, House Bill 468, sponsored by Rep. Bill Pratt, D-Albuquerque, would also standardize how many petition signatures other candidates have to gather to make it on the ballot.

Under the current system, independent candidates have to gather signatures equal to at least 3 percent of the number of votes cast in a previous election. The signature requirement can hit 500 in a competitive legislative race.

But Pratt’s proposal would make it a flat 100 signatures in legislative races, regardless of previous voter turnout.

There would be corresponding changes for other races. An independent U.S. Senate candidate, for example, would have to gather 1,000 signatures rather than over 20,000, as they would under the current system.

The measure has been referred to just one committee, which will make it easier for the bill to reach the House floor.

Most bills must make it through two or three committees before the full House considers them.

Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said Pratt’s ballot-access bill is “really good” and that he generally favors ways to increase participation in elections.

Pratt, a retired physician, joined the Legislature this year. He won the open Northeast Albuquerque seat that was once held by the late Rep. Larry Larrañaga.

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