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Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Third Parties Opposed to Lujan Bill

By Loie Fecteau
Journal Politics Writer
    SANTA FE State Green and Libertarian party officials have joined forces to fight a bill pushed by House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, that would make it more difficult for third political parties to achieve major-party status in New Mexico.
    Green activist Carol Miller said Lujan's bill (HB 628) would make New Mexico's rules regarding major political parties the most difficult to satisfy in the country.
    Having major-party status means a political party is able to hold primary elections and, effectively, have a higher profile.
    Miller called Lujan's actions "purely political." She noted the state Green Party regained its major-party status in New Mexico late last year because Green gubernatorial candidate David Bacon received 5 percent, or about 26,000 votes, of the total cast in the three-way 2002 general election for governor, won by now-Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat.
    "If anyone other than Democrats or Republicans show any success in New Mexico's electoral system, they simply change the rules," said Joseph Knight, who chairs the state Libertarian Party. "This anti-democracy legislation would guarantee the state's Democrat and Republican parties' two-party rule."
    Under Lujan's proposal, a political party in New Mexico would need to have a membership totalling at least 10 percent of registered voters statewide, or about 95,000 members presently, to qualify as a major party. The Greens now have about 11,500 registered voters, according to the Secretary of State's Office.
    Lujan said he does not think the Secretary of State's Office should have to bear the cost of holding a primary election for the Greens, who he said have "a ridiculously low" number of registered voters.
    Lujan said the Greens and other third political parties would still be able to field candidates in elections under his legislation, which has yet to receive a hearing.
    "We're not in any way precluding them from being on the ballot," Lujan said. "It's not fair for the taxpayers to have to foot a big old bill for them to have a primary."