Updated: January 14, 2021 06:14 PM
Created: January 14, 2021 05:26 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- An Albuquerque attorney is accusing New Mexico officials of discriminating against independent voters and candidates.
In the lawsuit, attorney Ken Stalter claims the current Special Congressional Election process is unconstitutional because it favors Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians.
According to the 12-page lawsuit, independent voters “face a significantly more daunting path to ballot access: these candidates must collect signatures from more than 6,000 registered voters. This system unconstitutionally discriminates against independent candidates and voters.”
The lawsuit requests declaratory judgment ahead of the presumed special election to fill the seat of Congresswoman Deb Halaand after she is confirmed as United States Secretary of Interior for the Biden-Harris Administration.
“With this lawsuit, we want to put independent candidates and voters on even footing with those that are members of parties,” Stalter said.
Stalter told KOB 4 the major parties candidates could get their party’s nomination with the support of less than 200 “political insiders.”
“There is no more sacred and fundamental right as an American citizen than to vote,” said Stalter,
“Stacking the deck against independents is not only anti-democratic, it’s unconstitutional,” he added.
Meantime, officials with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office told KOB they think the case should be dismissed.
“Although we have not yet been served, these challenges to New Mexico’s law governing how independent candidates can run in a special congressional election are not new and have been thus far rejected by the courts,” said Alex Curtas, a spokesperson with the Secretary of State.
“This case does not offer a new legal argument. An independent candidate is not similarly situated to a qualified political party candidate seeking to be included on a special election ballot,” he added.
“Qualified political parties go through a much more rigorous process to be included on the ballot and have already demonstrated a substantial level of support, unlike independent candidates. If the court agreed to the relief requested by the Plaintiff, independent candidates would have no ability to field a candidate in a special election. We think the dismissal of this case is appropriate,” he said.
Stalter hopes a judge make a decision before the special election. State lawmakers have also talked about changing the current process during the upcoming session.
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