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Editorial: Spend $500K on a special election just to stop them?

The irony in Albuquerque City Council President Ken Sanchez wanting to consider a special election to get voters to decide if they should continue to have special elections would be amusing.

If it didn’t have a $500,000 price tag.

And if it wasn’t necessary because of political shenanigans on the Bernalillo County Commission.

A special election – even a mail-in one – costs anywhere from $400,000 to $500,000. And because the Democrats on the Bernalillo County Commission decided to dump three vetted city ballot questions from the Nov. 4 general election ballot in favor of two non-binding county poll questions that the New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled must be included, those questions are on the back burner.

So Sanchez wants to consider using taxpayer cash for a December mail-in election that would ask voters those three city questions, which would:

  • Give the council approval authority over the hiring of a police chief,
  • Authorize sale of $6.5 million in bonds for redevelopment projects, and
  • Put successful petition initiatives on the next regularly scheduled ballot rather than require a special election.

His need for speed? Sanchez says waiting until the next regularly scheduled city election – October of odd-numbered years – could mean city taxpayers have to pay for “one or two more petition drives” after shelling out around $1.2 million for three petition-drive special elections on banning late-term abortion (failed) and increasing the minimum wage and the percentage of votes required to avoid a runoff election (both succeeded).

Yet when Sanchez first began working on the petition question in November 2013, his target was getting it before city voters in 2014 or 2015. There has not been a successful city petition initiative since then.

Councilor Don Harris has a point when he says unless another petition drive pops up, “it just seems like we’re spending money on a special election to avoid the chance of a special election.”

And the irony – and how the city got here – should not be lost on voters or taxpayers.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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