Friday, March 14, 2008

NM AG Might Have Gotten Law Wrong

NM law says that political parties have to abide by the election code when nominating candidates


Former NM Gov. Dave Cargo says law is clear; AG got it wrong

By Dennis Domrzalski and
Mark Bralley

The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office might have gotten it wrong this morning in saying it can’t investigate allegations of vote-buying at the recent Bernalillo County Republican Party ward conventions because political party nominating conventions aren’t subject to the state’s election code.
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King--Photo by Mark Bralley

According to the New Mexico election code, political parties have to abide by the code when determining which candidates get on ballots. Here’s the relevant part of the election law:

1-7-1. Political parties; conditions for use of ballot. (1969)
All nominations of candidates for public office in New Mexico made by political parties shall be made pursuant to the Election Code [
1-1-1 NMSA 1978]. No political party shall be permitted to have the names of its candidates printed on any election ballot unless and until it has qualified as provided in the Election Code.

Other sections of the election code say it’s a fourth-degree felony to pay for a vote and to take money to vote a certain way:

1-20-11. Offering a bribe. (1969)
Offering a bribe consists of willfully advancing, paying, or causing to be paid, or promising, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable consideration, office or employment, to any person for the following purposes connected with or incidental to any election:
A. to induce such person, if a voter, to vote or refrain from voting for or against any candidate, proposition, question or constitutional amendment;
B. to induce such person, if a precinct board member or other election official, to mark, alter, suppress or otherwise change any ballot that has been cast, any election return, or any certificate of election; or
C. to induce such person to use such payment or promise to bribe others for the purposes specified in this section.
Whoever offers a bribe is guilty of a fourth degree felony.

1-20-12. Accepting a bribe. (1969)
Accepting a bribe consists of knowingly accepting any payment or promise of payment, directly or indirectly, of money, valuable consideration, office or employment for the unlawful purposes specified in
Section 1-20-11 NMSA 1978.
Whoever accepts a bribe is guilty of a fourth degree felony.

Former New Mexico Gov. Dave Cargo brought the vote-buying allegations to the news media. He said that certain campaigns paid the registration fees of some attendees to the Bernalillo County GOP’s March 17 pre-primary nominating convention. The delegates elected at the pre-primary nominating convention will determine which candidates will appear on the Republican Party’s June primary election ballot. Those include candidates for the U.S Senate and the House of Representatives.
Dave Cargo and Gary King--Photo by Mark Bralley


Congresswoman Heather Wilson’s U.S. Senate campaign has admitted that it paid the $30 registration fees for five convention attendees.
The 79-year-old Cargo said this morning that he was “appalled” when he heard of the AG’s decision to not investigate the vote-buying allegations.

“It’s as clear as a bell. They (political parties) have to abide by the law,” Cargo said. “Otherwise, how do they control expenditures, accounting, reporting and all kinds of other things. There is nothing private about a public election. You talk about a plain reading of the statute, how could it be any clearer?”

Cargo has argued that the Republican pre-primary convention is subject to the election code because it was the first step in the process to officially name party candidates for federal, state and local offices.

Another section of the election code also appears to support Cargo’s argument:

1-7-2. Qualification; removal; requalification. (1995)
A. To qualify as a political party in New Mexico, each political party through its governing body shall adopt rules and regulations providing for the organization and government of that party and shall file the rules and regulations with the secretary of state. Uniform rules and regulations shall be adopted throughout the state by the county organizations of that party, where a county organization exists, and shall be filed with the county clerks. At the same time the rules and regulations are filed with the secretary of state, the governing body of the political party shall also file with the secretary of state a petition containing the hand-printed names, signatures, addresses of residence and counties of residence of at least one-half of one percent of the total votes cast for the office of governor or president at the preceding general election who declare by their signatures on such petition that they are voters of New Mexico and that they desire the party to be a qualified political party in New Mexico.
B. Each county political party organization may adopt such supplementary rules and regulations insofar as they do not conflict with the uniform state rules and regulations or do not abridge the lawful political rights of any person (Emphasis mine).)Such supplementary rules shall be filed with the county clerk and the secretary of state in the same manner as other rules are filed.

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