New Mexico Constitution Party sues secretary of state for ballot access

Online Staff Report

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — July 18, the Constitution Party of New Mexico (CPNM) received a letter from Secretary of State Dianna Duran (SOS) stating they are not qualified for ballot access. However, she did not follow state Elections Code that requires a notice of disqualification no later than March 15.

The SOS did not notify county clerks of the removal and non-qualification of the party within the required time frame, and failed to notify registered members of the party within 45 days of the non-qualification of the party.

Party members did not receive notice until Nov. 1, a full six months past the deadline. In addition, the SOS broke precedent: from 1997 through 2011, when a party submitted a successful ballot access petition, as CPNM did, it attained ballot status the next two elections, not just one.

Nov. 25, Jon Barrie, chairman of the NMCP, filed an Emergency Petition for Writ of Mandamus with the New Mexico Supreme Court to reverse Dianna Duran’s ruling — Nov. 26, the court asked the SOS to respond by Dec. 14.

In 2012, Jon Barrie had to file in the Supreme Court to have his name on the ballot as U.S. Senate candidate when the SOS ruled that despite submitting 10,279 signatures to be on the ballot, the Barrie campaign was 315 names short of the requited 6,028 valid signatures. A Supreme Court ruling found in favor of Barrie, and he went on to receive 3.6 percent of the vote.

Albuquerque attorney Charles N. Lakins, who handled the case last year, is representing the party in this latest lawsuit. A link to the current filing is here: NM Filing. The suit asserts:

Equal protection analysis in the Fifth Amendment area is the same as that under the Fourteenth Amendment. Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 420 U.S. 636, 638 n. 2 (1975), and cases cited. In several situations concerning the electoral process, the principle has been developed that restrictions on access to the electoral process must survive exacting scrutiny. The restriction can be sustained only if it furthers a ‘vital’ governmental interest, American Party of Texas v. White, 415 U.S. 767, 780-781 (1974), that is achieved by a means that does not unfairly or unnecessarily burden either a minority party’s or an individual candidate’s equally important interest in the continued availability of political opportunity. Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 94-95 (1976).”

Barrie said: “Of all the functions of government, the Secretary of State should be held to the highest standards — from commerce to political campaigns, New Mexicans must rely on that office for fairness and equality. In this instance, Dianna Duran let her partisan favoritism get in the way of her obligation to give voters of every persuasion an opportunity to participate in elections. Once again, it’ll be a David vs. Goliath court fight, but I’m confident that win or lose, New Mexico’s voters will better understand how raw political power wielded by a few ‘mainstream’ party operatives is used to keep alternative voices out of the election arena.”

Frank Fluckiger, national chairman of the Constitution Party, added: “We are helping to underwrite this case because not only is it unfair to New Mexican voters, but we want to use it as an example when we enter ballot access battles we have in other states. Those range from ridiculously high number of signatures needed by a candidate to appear on the ballot (for example, in Texas where 20 percent of the vote in the previous general election is required), to exorbitant filing fees ($10,000 in Florida) for candidates seeking office. Election Day must be a free market, open to all voters.”

The Constitution Party traces its origins to 1992, when a number of independent state parties united to form the U.S. Taxpayers Party. In 1999, the organization changed its name to the “Constitution Party” to better reflect the party’s core beliefs. It has run presidential candidates ever since its founding; in 2012, the party nominee was former Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode.

Posted Dec. 6, 2013

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