At first glance, Constitutional Amendment 2 on this November’s ballot looks too technical to make much of a difference to voters. But if you, like so many New Mexicans, are overwhelmed by the huge number of judges appearing at the bottom of your ballot every election, the technical fix embedded in this measure will make your life easier. The amendment will allow the Legislature to stagger the elections for non-statewide officers appearing on the ballot in any one election.
By aligning the elections, this amendment will reduce the number of judicial candidates on any one ballot and allow the voter to focus their attention on these important offices. Judicial candidates often fly under the radar. Voters know little about the various candidates, and it takes effort to find out. Many voters simply stop after voting for president, governor or other candidates at the top of the ballot. In doing so, they are giving away an important power since judges – not legislators or executives – often have the last word when it comes to redistricting, marriage equality, abortion access or other controversial issues.
Constitutional Amendment 2 is a by-product of a sweeping election code reform that was passed in 2019, which consolidated local elections and increased voter participation in smaller, often overlooked, municipal elections. It allows the Legislature to align the elections of local and state officials by lengthening or shortening the terms of some officers to provide consistency, and to balance the number of offices on any one ballot. It also standardizes the start dates for terms of office. It will make life easier for both voters and election officials. This year, there are at least 30 judges on the ballot in Bernalillo County. That is too many on the ballot at once.
What’s to stop the Legislature from picking and choosing which terms to lengthen and which to shorten? The amendment requires a “legislative finding,” not just an ordinary law, that any adjustment to align or stagger the terms of a state, county or district officer is only to provide for consistency in the timing of elections for that office, or to balance the number of offices appearing on the ballot in the election. Until things come into balance, elected officials may either have their terms shortened or lengthened by two years. But they are protected in the next election since the extended term only counts for one term and a shortened term is not to be considered a term for the purposes of term limitations.
With these protections in place, Constitutional Amendment 2 is worth your support. It will streamline ballots which now strains the eyes from small font, and creates long lines as voters decide how to vote in races they know little about. It will also address “voter fatigue” that discourages voters from weighing in on important candidates and measures located far down on the ballot.
Constitutional Amendment 2 deserves a “yes” vote.