In a party-line decision, the state Senate voted 25-16 on Tuesday night to make New Mexico part of a multistate compact that would elect the president by popular vote. All 16 Republican senators opposed the measure, House Bill 55. The compact would take effect when states possessing a majority of the electoral votes, — a total of 270 — have joined the compact. So far 11 states and Washington, D.C., have joined. New Mexico has five electoral votes.
As the 2020 presidential election kicks into gear, New Mexico is a step closer to joining a group of states in upending how the country selects its leader. The Senate Rules Committee backed a bill Sunday that would allow New Mexico to join a compact of several other states committed to putting its electoral college votes behind whichever candidate wins the most votes nationwide. Known as the national popular vote, the idea is part of a movement to remove what backers argue is an outdated vestige of American democracy but which critics of the bill argue would undercut the political power of smaller states like New Mexico. Under the U.S. Constitution, each state gets an electoral college vote commensurate to the number of representatives it has in Congress. Under the formula, smaller states are over-represented.
State Rep. Georgene Louis, who grew up in Acoma Pueblo, said she and other Native Americans often were told, “Your vote doesn’t matter.” She believes a lot of people in America feel that way, she said Wednesday to other members of the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee, particularly during presidential elections when the Electoral College trumps the popular vote. That’s why Louis, an Albuquerque Democrat, said she joined fellow Democrats on the committee to vote 6-3 in favor of a bill to elect the U.S. president by popular vote. Rep. Gail Chasey, also a Democrat from Albuquerque and one of the sponsors of House Bill 55, told the committee members: “Every vote should count equally. Period.”
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.
A local legislator’s bill to bar New Mexico law enforcement from imposing federal immigration laws is getting attention as a measure to challenge President Trump’s expected crackdown on illegal immigration. “Given the repressive potential coming from the Trump administration, I wanted to make sure our immigrant community felt safe and protected,” the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque, said in a recent interview. Hers is just one of several proposals sitting before the New Mexico Legislature directly reflect what’s happening as a result of 2016’s contentious campaign and the election of Donald Trump as president. State Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, for example, is carrying a bill that would require New Mexico’s electors to cast their votes to reflect the national popular vote. State Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, has a measure to eliminate “faithless” electors, or state electors who cast votes without abiding by their state’s vote totals.