Tuesday, August 02, 2005

All Those Petitions: There Is More to the Story

NOB HILL--I was stunned by the number of rejected signatures on the mayoral petitions. Now with the minimum wage petition, Sheriff Darren White had been on TV talking about "hundreds" of forged signatures. And the signature rejection rate was around 40%...a huge number! The latest numbers I have show 7614 accepted out of 13,187: a rejection rate of about 42%. Stunning.

But the petitions for the mayoral race are experiencing similar numbers of rejections...even without the "hundreds" of forgeries. Mayor Martin Chavez had over 40% of his signatures rejected even with his all-volunteer army of supporters. The other candidates had slightly lower percentages of invalid signatures, but comparable. These numbers are even more shocking than the minimum wage petition numbers. Judith Espinosa, pictured at left, and David Steele could see their candidacies evaporate, even though they turned in a large number of "extra" petitions.

How is it possible that 35-40% of the signees are not registered, valid voters? Frankly, it is NOT possible. The criteria being used must be so strict that literally thousands of us voters are being disenfranchised in this petition process. The City Clerk, Judy Chavez, is supposed to make sure that democracy works...not play "gotcha" with the voters. Candidate Espinosa is asking a judge to intervene, and who could blame her.

Now one has to ask, "Why is this happening?" It is relevant to point out that the City Clerk is an "exempt" employee, serving at the pleasure of the mayor. He hired her and he can fire her. But I do not think life is that simple. She is certainly being as hard on the Mayor's petitions as she is on those of the other candidates...even harder.

It is fair, however, to ask whom a large rejection rate would hurt and whom would it benefit. Certainly the mayor, with his large war chest and his hopes of winning 40% of the votes to avoid a runoff, would seem to benefit from fewer candidates in the race. So seemingly would other candidates with the resources and name recognition hoping to avoid splitting their votes with lesser-known candidates holding similar political views. But I am making no accusations. I do think the validation procedure should be looked at...and soon. And certainly the signing criteria should be made explicit on the petition forms themselves. This is ridiculous. 40% rejection far exceeds the numbers one should expect.

I think what upsets me most is thinking about the thousands of voters who have been disenfranchised by a bureaucrat. Am I one of them? Are you?


Lisa said...

i am sorely tired of the shenanigains in albuquerque/new mexcico politics.
But i will keep voting.

KathyF said...

It worked for Richard Romero in last year's congressional primary. He was able to keep Eli Chavez out of the race by challenging his signatures.

Many of those challenged signatures were legit, we found when we looked at them and compared them to voter records, yet Romero's wife and staff members testified in court they "knew" they were ineligible.

No one cared, and Eli was off the ballot. Crime pays.