State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Category: New Mexico

New Mexico Supreme Court candidate disqualified

New Mexico Supreme Court Says Judicial Candidate was Properly Disqualified from Election and Fined for Violations of Public Campaign Financing Law

On April 12, 2012, the New Mexico Supreme Court found that candidate for a seat on the New Mexico Court of Appeals was properly disqualified from the election and fined. The case, Montoya v. Herrera concerned Dennis Montoya’s 2010 bid for a seat on the state appeals court. Judge Linda Vanzi was running to confirm the seat to which the governor had appointed her three years earlier and continue her job with the approval of voters. Montoya ran against her, and applied for public funding under the New Mexico Voter Action Act.

Then-secretary of state, Mary Herrera, “informed Appellant by letter that he was not qualified to receive public funding because he had violated the Act’s contribution limits and reporting requirements.” After a hearing, the action was upheld because Montoya was found to have exceeded the seed money limits of the New Mexico Voter Action Act and failed to comply with the secretary’s reporting requirements. Herrera imposed a $2,000 fine on Montoya for his violations.

Montoya appealed the disqualification and fine, which went straight to the highest court because he was running for a seat on the intermediate appellate court. The state supreme court considered whether he had violated the seed money regulations of the act, which impose a $5,000 limit on a candidate’s contributions to his own campaign. Montoya contributed over $8,000 to his own campaign, but argued they were for general expenses rather than seed money. The state high court rejected that argument, saying there is no such distinction in the wording of the law.


The New Mexico Supreme Court explained that, “when [Montoya] contributed more than $8,000 of his own money to the campaign, while simultaneously applying for public funds, he violated the Act.  Under the law, the Secretary had no choice but to disqualify him from public financing, and she did so.” It also dismissed Montoya’s First-Amendment claim because he choose to apply for public financing, when self-financing campaigns is allowed. This is a somewhat surprising outcome, as First Amendment claims have done well elsewhere.

The court upheld the fine as well, because the secretary of state was required by law to impose a civil penalty on anyone who violates the Act, regardless of his or her intent or knowledge of the violation.

New Mexico Supreme Court opinion

KOB local news

It was the last thing her hand had closed upon!

All States (motor-voter): The voting poor

by Patrick Genova

Initiatives aimed at registering poor Americans to vote is un-American, or at least that is the conjecture Matthew Vadum made early last month in a controversial article published by American Thinker. Vadum, the author of Subversion, Inc. and Senior Editor for the non-profit watchdog group Capital Research Center, argues that leftist groups are trying to use the poor as a “battering ram” to advance redistributionist policies. The poor masses, Vadum suggests, are the tools with which Obama and like-minded organizations plan to drag America further from small government ideals. Vadum essentially asserts that voter registration is infringing on his American Dream.

The progressive radio host Thom Hartmann went toe-to-toe with Vadum shortly after the article was released. On the Thom Hartmann Program Vadum defended the views he put forward in the article arguing that, given the chance, welfare recipients would vote for their own interests. Hartmann, expressing concern for the one in seven Americans below the poverty line, argued that everyone, not just the poor, votes for their own interests. Vadum had no substantive response to Hartmann’s prodding.

Continue reading

Mr. Colbert: or, How states might learn to love campaign finance reform

Its opponents deride its existence as a farce upon campaign finance law.  Its supporters suggest that it is the only way to set the system straight.  News of it has reached the public’s consciousness, rarified air for anything in the field of campaign finance. And we’re not even talking about Citizens United.

The Federal Election Commission’s recent decision permitting comedian Stephen Colbert to form his own Super PAC has successfully turned the media’s (and to a certain extent, the public’s) attention to the post-Citizens United world of political donations. Continue reading

Committees and Campaigns: South Carolina Federal Court Tightens Definition and Loosens Regulations

In the wake of last year’s Citizen’s United ruling, there’s been much deliberation, speculation, and anticipation about how the world of federal campaign finance will be changed – and now the states are getting into the mix.  Decisions in Colorado, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Utah paved the way for Judge Terry Wooten of the United States District Court for South Carolina to rule that the state’s definition of “committee” is unconstitutional in South Carolina Citizens for Life v. KrawcheckGranting partial summary judgment in favor of South Carolina Citizens for Life (SCCL) on their constitutional claim that the South Carolina Ethics Commission was overbroad in defining “committee,” Judge Wooten may have opened the door to influential campaign contributions from organizations whose primary purpose is not to influence elections. Continue reading

Corruption? In MY Elections? Its More Likely Than you Think.

Money and politics have been intertwined since the beginning of government.  Today is no different.  While bribery laws have been around in the United States since the founding, an increasing amount of states have enacted specific laws related to bribery in politics in an effort to address pay to play operations.  Pay to play is the term used to describe a situation where money, typically in the form of political donations, is exchanged for specific political favors, often in the form of a regulation carve out or an award of a government contract.  In an effort to curb political favoritism, states have regulated, or completely prohibited, political donations from lobbyists and government contractors.  New Mexico is no exception.  The New Mexico House of Representatives passed a bill that significantly impacts who can donate to political candidates and political parties.  The bill did not make it through in the Senate, but supporters are hopeful it will pass in the next legislative session.

The text of NM House Bill 118 widely prohibits lobbyists and government contractors from donating to a political candidate or any political committee.  It also prohibits “seekers of targeted subsidies” from political donations.  This is defined as “a person, including a business entity or nonprofit organization, that will directly benefit financially from a targeted subsidy.” A “targeted subsidy” is further described as “a financial benefit, including a tax exemption, credit or reduction in taxes, that is conferred by proposed legislation or the enactment of law on an entity that is: (1) named in the legislation or law as its beneficiary; or (2) described in the legislation or law in a particularized manner that is the functional equivalent of naming the entity as its beneficiary.” Continue reading

Weekly Wrap Up

This weekly wrap up is a little late, since we posted a summary of our Symposium on Friday instead of our typical weekly wrap up.   To anyone who was waiting with bated breath for the latest news in state election law, I apologize.

Anyway, here’s a slightly belated summary of last week’s state election law news.

– According to a study by the Brennan Center, state judges are raising significantly more money for their campaigns than ever before.  In the last decade, candidates for state judgeships have raised more than 206 million dollars, which is more than double the 83 million raised by candidates in the 1990s.

– Lawmakers in Maryland and Washington D.C. are considering abandoning their traditional September primary dates, as the requirements of the newly passed “Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act” make it impossible to hold a primary so late in the year.

– There’s some controversy in New Mexico over whether Joe Campos, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, qualified to appear on the primary ballot.  Mr. Campos received 19.69% of delegate votes in that state’s pre-primary nominating convention.  Under New Mexico law, a candidate must receive 20% of the vote to appear on the ballot, and for the last week, the New Mexico Democratic Party has been debating whether to round up to 20% and allow Campos’s name on the primary ballot.  Luckily for Campos, the party eventually ruled that the law requires them to round up.  Interestingly, a Republican candidate who received 19.5% of delegate votes was kept off the primary ballot for failing to reach the 20% threshold.

-The Democratic Party is considering launching a 20 million dollar campaign to maintain  or take control of seventeen pivotal state legislatures, in anticipation of 2011 redistricting. The party that controls those state legislatures will have the power to redraw 198 congressional districts.

– The Election Assistance Commission now provides voter registration forms in five Asian languages,  Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Chinese.

Chris Biggs has been appointed the new Kansas Secretary of State. The previous Secretary of State, Ron Thornburg, resigned his position on February 15th, forcing Governor Mark Parkinson to appoint a successor to serve the remainder of the term.  Kansas elects its Secretary of State and some fear that being appointed interim Secretary will give Biggs an unfair advantage in the upcoming Secretary of State campaign.  Essentially, Biggs gets all the advantages of incumbency, without having to win an election in the first place.

– Check out our Citizens United and the States page, which tracks the impact of the Citizens United decision on the states.  The page  has reached 72 links and more are being added everyday.

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