A Public Education Commission member is asking a federal court to invalidate New Mexico’s requirements for independent candidates to secure a place on the ballot. Tyson Parker of Corrales brought a lawsuit in federal district court last week, contending state election laws discriminate against candidates unaffiliated with a political party by requiring them to submit an unfairly high number of voter signatures on nominating petitions. To get on the ballot, Parker needed nearly eight times more signatures than a Democratic candidate, almost five times more than a Republican and three times more than a minor party candidate.
For independents running for the commission, petition signatures must be equal to at least 3 percent of the total number of votes cast for governor in the district in the last general election. Minor party candidates only need 1 percent of that vote. Democrats and Republicans need signatures equal to 3 percent of the votes in the district for their party’s primary election gubernatorial candidates. However, far fewer voters typically cast ballots in a primary election than a general election.
Only Alabama and Montana impose similar or greater candidate petition requirements, according to the lawsuit.
Independents are the fastest-growing part of New Mexico’s electorate, and account for about 1 in 5 voters, according to the latest voter registration data. “There are just too many out there who can make a real difference but are being discouraged from participating in the political process,” Parker said Monday.