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Window closing to approve election overhaul

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

With election deadlines fast approaching, Albuquerque’s ranked-choice voting legislation remains in limbo.

But supporters of the proposal to change the way Duke City residents select councilors and the mayor have not abandoned their quest to see it implemented by the Nov. 5 local election.

City Councilors Isaac Benton and Pat Davis, Democrats, and Brad Winter, a Republican, introduced the ranked-choice legislation in April. To have it in place this year, the council would have to approve it by June 30 – the deadline for the city to submit election details to the New Mexico Secretary of State.

But the bill has not advanced out of committee.

Benton considered a procedural fast-track move during Monday’s council meeting but said he did not feel he had the requisite support from the council. He said he wanted ranked-choice advocates to have more time to make their case to his peers.

That leaves a narrow window to get it done in time.

It would likely require the council agreeing to pull the bill from committee during its June 3 session and then voting to adopt it at the June 17 meeting – the council’s last scheduled session of the month.

Maria Perez of Common Cause New Mexico – one of the organizations backing the measure – said securing the bill’s passage would be a challenge for the 2019 election but she thought it remained possible.

“It’s not going to be an easy lift, but we hope the councilors will see this as a benefit to their constituents and a good policy for the city of Albuquerque,” she said.

Under the proposal, voters would rank candidates by preference instead of picking one. Supporters say it would negate the need for costly runoff elections, which occur under the current Albuquerque ordinance when no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote. Runoffs in 2013 and 2017 cost the city a combined $1.5 million, according to the legislation. Now that the municipal election happens in November instead of October, Perez says ranked-choice would spare voters a possible runoff election during the heart of the holiday season.

Councilor Don Harris has expressed concern about implementing ranked choice at this juncture, saying it would mean changing the rules in the middle of election season. Davis and Benton are both seeking reelection. Harris has also proposed letting the voters decide whether to adopt the policy.

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