New Mexico Secretary of State Brad Winter met with some members of the state legislature to discuss some of his goals for the office on Friday morning.
It was Winter’s first meeting with legislators during the legislative session as Secretary of State. Winter took over after Dianna Duran, the previous Secretary of State, resigned ahead of pleading guilty to six charges, including two felonies, related to misusing her campaign funds.
Winter told the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs committee that one of his priorities is improving education on and compliance with campaign finance laws. He said his office created a department devoted to educating candidates on how to properly comply with campaign finance laws.
“We’re going to do a lot more face-to-face, a lot more calling,” Winter said in reference to his office’s availability to candidates.
Winter also praised his office and its employees on implementing online voter registration ahead of schedule.
“We were a year early and it’s because of this office,” Winter said.
Committee members praised the work Winter’s staff for helping them with their respective campaign questions, namely Ortiz’s Chief of Staff Ken Ortiz.
Elections Director Kari Fresquez was also at the presentation and answered questions regarding voting issues.
A few panel members raised their concerns, which ranged from deployed active duty military voters to online voter registration. Both Reps. Eliseo Alcon, D-Milan, and Debbie Rodella, D-Española, expressed concern about constituents who leave their party affiliation blank and are unable to vote in primary elections.
Alcon said many of his constituents unintentionally left the party affiliation blank and were unable to vote in the primary.
“A lot of those people couldn’t vote,” Alcon said.
Fresquez told both Rodella and Alcon that the online registration form will not only inform voters about the ability to vote in primaries, but also requires a choice between Democratic, Republican or ‘decline to state.’
Under state law, voters can only vote in primaries of the political party they belong to. Albuquerque attorney David Crum unsuccessfully took the open primary issue to court last year.* This year, Reps. Jim Smith, R-Sandia Park, and Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, introduced a proposal to amend the constitution that would allow voters to participate in a primary regardless of their party affiliation.
Gov. Susana Martinez appointed Winter to the position of Secretary of State last December. Winter, who won an Albuquerque City Council reelection bid last October, decided to serve as both city councilor and Secretary of State.
Because of Duran’s resignation, the position will be up for election this year in November. Winter previously said he will not run for the position this year, but there is already one official and another potential candidate for the position.Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver officially announced her candidacy earlier this month. Former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil told NM Political Report that she was collecting signatures to secure a spot in the Democratic pre-primaries. Both Toulouse Oliver and Vigil were among the handful of candidates who applied for the nomination.
Winter also told the committee he is working towards leaving a well functioning office for whoever wins the position of Secretary of State later this year.
“We are crossing our Ts dotting our Is,” Winter said
*This writer’s wife is an attorney who works for David Crum.