Sunday, February 8, 2009

Election Overturned: Amendment 4

Well, not exactly. But if a clear majority of voters, just shy of 75%, in an election vote one way or the other, then people can be forgiven for thinking those votes should have something to do with the outcome of the election. But in the case of proposed constitutional amendment 4 in the November 2008 general election, it turns out the naive assumptions about voter preference don't apply. The Las Cruces Sun-News today has an excellent Associated Press story reviewing the devil hidden n the details of the presumed passage of amendment 4. The amendment would have moved school board elections from the present preposterous date of the first Tuesday in February to the date of other non-artisan elections.
Approval of the proposal came from 74.48% of the voters, just under the 75% required for approval of this type of proposal. Even approval votes from a few more folks statewide might not have passed the amendment because of another requirement—that approval also come from two-thirds of the voters in each county. Fewer than two-thirds of the voters in Mora and Harding counties favored amendment 4. The two approval thresholds were put into the constitution to protect Hispanics interests, the story said. Such protection seems a good idea in general and probably was a very good idea at the time.
1. While the AP story didn't say, it is a reasonable guess that proponents didn't do their homework.
2. The outcome puts yet another spotlight on the dubious rationale behind the continued existence of Harding County, population around 750.
3. While the intent of the restriction may well have been worthy nearly 100 years ago when the constitution was written, today the failure of amendment 4 hurts HIspanics and all other New Mexicans by making it more difficult to capture control of the schools from entrenched interests who know how to play the election game in the dark and cold of February. That's because the point of moving the elections was to get more folks involved. That the failure was due to niggling details that bubbled through to the collective consciousness of the Secretary of State only five months later makes it worse.
4. Our constitution is frightfully easy to amend. I think that most of the amendments don't really matter. This one would have been a real improvement. The manner of the failure is another argument in favor of a constitutional convention.

No comments: