Some New Mexico cities choose not to hold November elections

Oct 6, 2021

Early voting is underway for the Nov. 2 local elections across the state. While most municipalities have opted to participate, close to a third have not, choosing instead to maintain control over their own elections rather than have their counties run them.

Next month is the second ever Regular Local Election in New Mexico, where all local issues are consolidated onto a single ballot voted on in November rather than various dates throughout the year. The first was in 2019.

Municipalities have to opt-in to participate. Alex Curtas, spokesperson for Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, said the office has been pushing for them to do that.

“When you can have elections every year on basically the same day, we get a lot more consistent turn-out that way,” Curtas said.

That proved true in 2019 in Albuquerque when over 23% of Bernalillo County voters cast a ballot, compared to about 8% for the last city election without a mayoral race, in 2015. 

Statewide, 28 municipalities have not opted-in to this November’s local election, Rio Rancho being the largest. City Public Affairs Division Manager Annemarie Garcia says the decision was related to a provision of the Local Election Act that bars participating cities from requiring a photo ID to vote, something Rio Rancho residents overwhelmingly approved for their own elections in 2012. 

“Elected officials would have to administratively override the will and vote of the people,” said Garcia. “And this is not something that elected officials expressed an interest in doing.”

Garcia said another factor is that the Regular Local Election would be run by a partisan county clerk – Sandoval County’s Anne Brady-Romero, a Democrat – rather than their own nonpartisan city clerk, Rebecca Martinez.

Rio Rancho and the other 27 municipalities will hold their local elections in March 2022 instead.

The Secretary of State told a panel of lawmakers last month that all 33 New Mexico counties will be holding an election this November. If none of its municipalities are participating, voters can still weigh in on issues from entities like school boards and soil and water conservation districts. 

Municipalities that have elected not to participate in this November's election have the option of opting-in to the 2023 Regular Local Election if they change their mind by June 30 of that year. Eleven municipalities that did not originally opt-in for the 2019 Regular Local Election have since.

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