New Mexico Candidacy Declarations in Judicial Retention Elections, Amendment 3 (2014)

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Amendment 3
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Constitution:Constitutional amendment
Referred by:New Mexico Legislature
Topic:Elections and campaigns on the ballot
Status:On the ballot
2014 measures
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November 4
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The New Mexico Candidacy Declarations in Judicial Retention Elections, Amendment 3 is on the November 4, 2014 ballot in New Mexico as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The measure, upon voter approval, would permit the legislature to set the date for filing declarations of candidacy for judicial retention elections.[1]

Currently, the constitution requires the filing of candidacy declarations for judicial retention elections to be on the same day as filings for candidates in primary elections.[1]

The proposed amendment was sponsored in the New Mexico Legislature by Rep. James E. Smith (R-22) and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-15) as Senate Joint Resolution 16.[2]

Text of measure

Constitutional changes

See also: Article VI, New Mexico Constitution

The measure amends Section 33 of Article VI of the Constitution of New Mexico to read:[1]

The office of any justice or judge subject to the provisions of [Section 33 of] Article 6, Section 33 of this constitution becomes vacant on January 1 immediately following the general election at which the justice or judge is rejected by more than forty-three percent of those voting on the question of [his] retention or rejection or on January 1 immediately following the date [he] the justice or judge fails to file a declaration of candidacy for the retention of [his] the justice's or judge's office in the general election at which the justice or judge would be subject to retention or rejection by the electorate. Otherwise, the office becomes vacant upon the date of the death, resignation or removal by impeachment of the justice or judge. [The date for filing a declaration of candidacy for retention of office shall be the same as that for filing a declaration of candidacy in a primary election.][3]


Support

Arguments

The New Mexico Legislative Council Service provided arguments for and against the constitutional amendment. The following are the council's arguments in support:

1. Corrects an irregularity in this constitutional section.
The proposed amendment corrects an irregularity in the current constitutional provision governing the date on which a sitting judge or justice must indicate an intention to stand for a nonpartisan retention election. All such retention elections are held during the general election in November, and there is no primary election. Thus, there is not a good reason to have justices and judges adhere to the early date for declarations of candidacy that govern partisan primaries rather than the later date required for minor party or independent candidates.

2. Removes minutiae of filing dates from constitution.
Administrative provisions dictating the filing date for elections do not properly belong in the constitution; they are generally set by statute. The cumbersome process of amending the constitution prohibits the legislature from changing election processes in an expeditious manner, if circumstances warrant, if filing dates are enshrined in the constitution. This is especially true in this case, where the date in the constitution has no relevant relationship to the office.

3. Removes a premature deadline for retirement announcements by sitting judges.
The current constitutional provision forces justices and judges to announce whether they will retire long before it is necessary to do so simply because partisan candidates in general elections are required to file for primary elections held in June. The nonpartisan retention elections are not held until November for justices and judges. [3]

—New Mexico Legislative Council Service[1]

Opposition

Arguments

The New Mexico Legislative Council Service provided arguments for and against the constitutional amendment. The following are the council's arguments against:

1. Unnecessary change.
The present constitutional requirements for judicial elections in the state represent a wide- ranging reform of judicial selection that was crafted in 1988. There is no compelling reason to undo part of that reform at this juncture, when the 1988 reforms have operated successfully for a quarter of a century.

2. Weakens connection between electorate and judicial office.
The filing requirement as presently enshrined in the constitution ― tied to the dates required for the vast majority of candidates ― acts to remind a justice or judge that while a retention election differs in form from other elections, the election is directly tied to the voters and their aspirations for the judiciary, and it underscores that the judiciary derives its authority from the electorate.

3. Increases potential for politics to intrude on judicial elections.
Leaving the filing date for retention elections in the constitution prohibits the legislature from manipulating retention election filing dates for political or partisan advantage. [3]

—New Mexico Legislative Council Service[1]

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the New Mexico Constitution

According to Article XIX of the New Mexico Constitution, a simple majority was required in the legislature to refer the amendment to the ballot. SJR 16 was approved in the New Mexico Senate on February 16, 2014.[4] The amendment was approved in the New Mexico House on February 19, 2014.[5]

Senate vote

February 16, 2014 Senate vote

New Mexico SJR 16 Senate Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 42 100.00%
No00.00%

House vote

February 19, 2014 House vote

New Mexico SJR 16 House Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 66 100.00%
No00.00%

See also

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