Gavel Grab

Governor Vetoes Update to NM Public Financing Law

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has vetoed legislation intended to update a voluntary system of public financing for elections of appellate court judges.

Martinez said the measure’s constitutionality was uncertain, according to an Associated Press article, and urged an overhaul for New Mexico’s hybrid system in which judges seek election in a partisan contest after they have been appointed to the bench.

“We need a broad, ground-up reform of the entire judicial election system,” she wrote in a veto message. “We have the unusual procedure of using a bi-partisan judicial nominating commission process with an immediate open partisan election system. I encourage the Legislature to consider broadly reforming our election system when it comes to judges and am willing to address the issue of public-financing reforms in that overall context.”

The vetoed legislation was drafted in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett, from 2011. The high court struck down a provision in Arizona’s law that furnished extra taxpayer dollars to participating candidates when privately funded foes or independent groups spent more. It was called a “trigger funds” provision.

The legislation was intended to set up a small donor matching system. Under it, candidates who participated would have gotten an initial public financing grant and after that, would have received a 4-1 match for donations of up to $100 (see Gavel Grab).

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