Inside the Capitol

Thursday, March 20, 2008

3-24 Why Not Hold All Elections At the Same Time?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Do conventions, filing days, elections and caucuses have you a little confused? They're coming hard and fast and even the pros have difficulty keeping up.
Wouldn't it be nice if all elections, from water board to president, could be held at the same time? We could have a national primary election for all partisan offices, followed by a general election for all offices, partisan and non partisan.
That would produce some very long ballots but with mail balloting and online balloting, it might become a possibility. And think of the turnout if people only had to vote twice every two years instead of practically every month.
Recently I received an e-mail from a national political consultant who has been in the business since the early 1970s. He told of attending a Santa Fe County Democratic convention earlier this month that bore little resemblance to what even he had anticipated.
At present we are in the middle of a 10-day period that includes state party preprimary nominating conventions, a filing day for local and district elected officials, and a supplemental filing day for congressional candidates.
Also in March, we have had county party nominating conventions and most municipalities have had elections. So far, we're only talking about political events in March. The process began in January and ends next November. March is the busiest month but every month has some action.
There are different election procedures for nearly every type of public office. School board elections are in February. Most city elections are in March, although some are in October. Community college elections are at a separate time. Special elections and bond elections can be at anytime.
The presidential nominating procedure is separate from the process for all other offices and, as we know so well, every state has a different procedure.
And lest you think state party conventions are over, delegates to the Democratic and Republican national conventions still must be selected. Democrats will do that in April. Republicans will meet in June.
And we all realize that last February Democrats selected the number of delegates for each candidate they will send. Republicans will do it during the June 3 primary elections.
Besides the presidential nominating procedures, there are two other classes of partisan offices, each with a different election timetable. Candidates for federal and statewide offices had to file in February.
They recently went through a preprimary nominating convention to determine ballot placement for those receiving 20 percent or more of the delegate vote. Those candidates not receiving 20 percent have the choice of gathering additional nominating petition signatures and submitting them on March 25.
Candidates for county offices and district offices didn't have to file until March 18 and don't have to go through a preprimary nominating convention. Candidates from all three classes will run in the June 3 preprimary election, except the Democratic presidential candidates, who already have been selected by a February party caucus.
So is everything clear now? Of course not. It isn't even clear to the experts. I certainly don't understand it all but I catch state and national experts in mistakes fairly often.
If you ever get a fancy to run for office, let's hope you have either been recruited by someone who can guide you through the system or you can find someone to help. Because even figuring out where to start the process can be difficult.
The secretary of state's Web site at is probably the best place to start. It has all the laws, forms and calendars to help you get started.
If you are a New Mexican just wanting to understand how the system all fits together, heaven help you. I am not aware of any such publication.
MON, 3-24-08

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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