Santa Fe will indeed become the 12th U.S. city to use ranked-choice voting in municipal elections after the state Supreme Court on Tuesday swatted away a legal challenge to the implementation of the new format. The high court provided no explanation for its decision but effectively preserved the order of state District Court Judge David Thomson, who ruled in late November that because ranked-choice voting machine software is available, it must be used in the March election in accordance with the city’s charter. Thomson also ruled that the ranked-choice format, used in larger cities like San Francisco as well as smaller progressive enclaves such as Portland, Maine, adheres to a provision of the New Mexico constitution allowing home-rule municipalities such as Santa Fe to conduct runoff elections.
Ranked-choice voting, approved as a charter amendment by almost two-thirds of city voters in 2008, qualifies as a version of a runoff, Thomson found, ruling there is no “statutory or constitutional language that limits, defines or restricts the kind of runoffs” a New Mexico city may conduct.
The New Mexico Supreme Court decision, delivered Tuesday in a terse two-page order, finalizes months of harried legal wrangling in advance of a fast-approaching election in which city voters will select a first-ever full-time mayor and fill four of eight City Council seats. Absentee voting begins at the end of this month, and Election Day is March 6.