House OKs campaign finance reform

After six years of trying to require “dark money” organizations and other independent-expenditure groups to report their political backers, supporters of campaign-finance reform got their bill through the state House of Representatives on Monday night. The House on Monday passed Senate Bill 96, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and Rep. Jim Smith, D-Sandia Park. The bipartisan vote was 41 to 24. Six Republicans joined with the 35 Democrats to vote for the bill. The Senate had already passed the bill, but it will have to go back there for consideration of House amendments.

Automatic voter registration bill dies in committee

Two Democrats joined with Republicans to kill a bill that would have automatically registered all eligible adults as voters when they obtain a New Mexico driver’s license. Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Española, questioned whether the bill was necessary when the Motor Vehicle Division can already offer eligible adults the chance to register to vote. Republicans on Thursday evening moved to table the bill in the House Local Government, Elections, Land Grants and Cultural Affairs Committee. Rodella and a newly elected Democrat, Rep. Daymon Ely of Corrales, sided with Republicans to stop the proposal on a 5-2 vote. Update: Later in the week the the committee heard the bill again and, after amending it, passed it.

Dems: Popular vote should determine presidential winner

New Mexico’s five electoral college votes would be awarded to the presidential candidate who received the most popular votes nationally, under a bill that state senators approved Monday in a party-line decision. All 26 Democratic senators voted for the measure and all 16 Republicans opposed it, perhaps a predictable outcome three months after Republican Donald Trump lost the popular vote but handily won the presidency in the electoral college. The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, said the electoral college allows presidential candidates to ignore most voters because it largely functions as a winner-take-all system in individual states. “Candidates have no reason to pay attention to states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind,” Stewart said. In addition, she said, minority-party voters in heavily Republican or overwhelmingly Democratic states believe that their votes don’t matter because the electoral college takes precedence over the popular vote.

National Republicans say they’re going after two NM seats

The national Republican group tasked with winning seats in Congress announced their list of targets of seats currently held by Democrats for the 2018 elections. On  that list are two New Mexico congressional seats, including one that a Republican has never held for a full term. Those seats, the 1st Congressional and 3rd Congressional Districts, would likely be tough races for Republicans, based on recent election results. The National Republican Congressional Committee announced 36 Democratically-held seats as areas for potential pickups to increase their advantage in the House. Republicans currently outnumber Democrats 240-193, with two seats open after lawmakers left those seats to take other positions in government.

Open primaries might boost voter turnout, bill sponsors say

A growing number of voters don’t want to register as either Republicans or Democrats, so a bipartisan group of lawmakers is proposing legislation that would allow independents to vote in New Mexico primary elections. Independent and third-party voters can’t participate in New Mexico’s June primaries, often a point of contention because 23 percent of the state’s voters are not affiliated with the major political parties and state funds pay for the primaries. “New Mexico has the highest percentage of non-competitive elections in the nation,” said Bob Perls, a former Democratic lawmaker, who heads a group called New Mexico Open Primaries. It is pushing two measure that would change how primary elections are run. One proposal, House Bill 206, would allow unaffiliated voters to choose either a Democratic or Republican ballot in primary elections.

Democrats propose amendment calling for automatic voter registration

All eligible voters in New Mexico should be registered, and the government should do it for them automatically, three Democratic lawmakers said Wednesday in announcing a proposal to enshrine new election law in the state constitution. The legislators said their proposal for automatic voter registration would reduce costs and create a more accurate system. Another likely benefit would be more people voting and holding government accountable for policy decisions, said Rep. Liz Thomson, one of the measure’s sponsors. “The more voices we hear, the better we can represent them,” Thomson said. She is teaming on the proposed constitutional amendment with Rep. Javier Martinez and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto.

Bill would require tax returns from presidential candidates

A state senator wants to require presidential candidates to release five years of tax returns to qualify for New Mexico’s ballot. State Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, announced the legislation Wednesday, and it comes after President-elect Donald Trump refused to release his tax returns, breaking a decades-long tradition among major party presidential candidates. “This past presidential election proved that time honored traditions and political norms are no longer enough to ensure that presidential candidates meet the basic threshold of transparency they owe to the public by releasing their tax returns,” Candelaria said in a statement. “New Mexico voters deserve to know if any potential conflicts of interest or financial improprieties may exist. It’s unbelievable that President-elect Donald Trump failed to provide the public with the most basic financial information disclosed by every major party nominee in the last 40 years.”

NM electors cast votes for Clinton

New Mexico’s electors officially cast the state’s five electoral college votes for Hillary Clinton Monday. Clinton won the state easily last month, even as she lost the national race to Republican Donald Trump when it comes to electoral votes. Trump received enough votes Monday to be formally named the president-elect. Each state receives an electoral vote for each member of the congressional delegation, plus Washington D.C. receives three electoral votes. Clinton received 48.3 percent of the vote in New Mexico, compared to 40 percent of the vote going to Trump.

Here’s who’s considering running to replace Lujan Grisham in Congress

Many Albuquerque-area political figures are rumored to be gearing up for a congressional campaign after New Mexico Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she plans to leave the seat and run for Governor. There are still no definitive announcements or declared candidates, but the handful of people NM Political Report spoke to this week gave similar answers—that they have been encouraged to run and are giving it serious consideration. Some said they don’t want to run for family reasons, in particular because of the amount of travel that comes with the job. The state’s congressional members often travel back and forth from Washington D.C. and New Mexico. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich’s family, for example, lived in Albuquerque while he served in the U.S. House before Lujan Grisham.

NY Times: Ben Ray Luján among those targeted by Russian hackers

Congressman Ben Ray Luján had his emails hacked by those with ties to Russians, according to a report in the New York Times. Luján was the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, an organization that seeks to elect more Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives. The DCCC was the target of the hacking incident, which was  similar to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Media reports have also said that the Republican National Committee saw its emails hacked, though the organization has denied this. The DCCC acknowledged it was hacked in July of this year.