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UPDATED: Runoff measure a big winner

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With final, but still unofficial returns all counted, the mail-in City Charter amendment that would have Albuquerque’s future mayors win at least 50 percent of the vote to take office won by a 55.33 percent to 44.67 percent margin, according to the latest tally (pdf download) from the City Clerk’s Office.

Unofficial votes for, with all voting districts reporting, totaled 32,055 and votes against were 25,884, the clerk’s office said.

The total vote was 57,939, marking a turnout of about 17 percent.

Runoff measure heads toward passage

By Dan McKay/Journal Staff Writer

Albuquerque’s future mayors would have to win at least 50 percent of the vote to take office under a City Charter amendment that appeared on its way to passage Monday, according to partial, unofficial election returns.

The ballot measure had support from nearly 60 percent of voters, with about half the ballots counted, according to the city website.

Those figures reflected the bulk of the ballots cast from six of nine council districts. The seventh district hadn’t yet been incorporated into unofficial totals, but City Clerk Amy Bailey said the measure was favored there, too.

In addition to districts 8 and 9, the election results available at 9:45 p.m. didn’t include ballots that had to be hand tallied or ballots that were turned in sometime during the day Monday.

About 60,000 people voted altogether, a turnout of around 17 percent.

The proposal before voters in Monday’s special election was the result of a petition drive by union groups and others, who gathered thousands of signatures last year to force an election.

The amendment would require that municipal candidates get at least 50 percent of the vote to win office. Under the current system, the winner needs only 40 percent; otherwise, the top two candidates compete in a runoff election the following month.

The proposal triggered a rather partisan debate, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

Supporters said the goal was to prevent two like-minded candidates from splitting the vote, allowing someone with a less-popular viewpoint to take office. They said it simply made sense to require a majority.

Opponents, meanwhile, said the 40 percent standard is already enough to keep out fringe candidates and that requiring 50 percent was a transparent attempt to help Democrats, who make up 46 percent of Albuquerque’s registered voters. Republicans comprise 31 percent.

They also said the extra runoff elections, at $550,000 to $750,000 each, would be a costly drain on the city budget.

Municipal elections are technically nonpartisan, meaning party labels don’t appear on the ballot with candidates’ names. There are no primary elections to narrow the field of candidates.

In Albuquerque, it’s been rare for a mayoral candidate to reach 50 percent in the first round of voting.

In 2009, Richard Berry, a Republican, won office with about 44 percent, defeating two Democrats. Four years earlier, Martin Chávez, a Democrat, won with 47 percent.

Monday’s election was conducted entirely by mail, the city’s first such election in 14 years.

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