Volume 5, Issue 2
In a case that may serve as a test for the nation, the Green Party of New Mexico is filing suit to retain major party status. They are challenging a March, 2001 reinterpretation of the state election code by Democratic Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron. According to Vigil-Giron’s unorthodox reading of the law, the rules that have applied since the New Mexcio Greens attained major party status in 1994 are without benefit of legislative process now construed so as to demote NM Greens back to minor party status.
The New Mexico election code specifies that a party with a candidate who receives the equivalent of 5% of the total vote for the office of governor or president qualifies as a major party in the state. In 1996 then NM Attorney General Tom Udall issued a ruling affirming the clear intent of the code on this point. His ruling holds that third parties are officially recognized as major and remain on the ballot if they run any candidate who gets at least 5% of all the votes cast for governor or president in the preceding general election. In other words, the qualifying third party candidate need not themselves be running for the offices of governor or president.
In the 2000 election, Green Party candidate for the NM Circuit Court of Appeals Marvin Gladstone received a vote equal to 10% of the presidential vote in New Mexico. Nevertheless, Vigil-Giron disregarded this resultt and ruled that because Green presidential candidate Ralph Nader received only 3.5% of the vote in New Mexico, that the Greens would lose their major party status. In so doing, she invoked a tangential ruling from an unpublished lower court opinion on a Libertarian Party case, to which New Mexico Greens were not party.
Now a Representative in Congress, Democrat Tom Udall stands by his 1996 ruling. After consulting with other leading election law attorneys, both in state and nationwide, New Mexico Green Party leaders are certain they have an extremely strong case.
Since the judge in this case likelymisquoted election law in his ruling, legal experts who have reviewed the record find his interpretation to be not only dubiously applicable but also highly questionable. Though there are pros and cons about the value of major versus minor party status, in April the GPNM’s governing body – the Green Council – voted unanimously to go to court if necessary to protect the party from arbitrary deprivation of its rights under the law.
“For the sake of all Greens who may face shady moves like this, we cannot let such a dangerous precedent be set,” says state party CoChair Melissa McDonald. “We are alive and well, and very confident that we are indeed still a major party in this state.”
NMGP CoChair Xubi Wilson adds, “We intend to make this a public referendum on citizen rights and other issues that the Democrats and Republicans avoid. We aim to turn it into an organizing tool to bring in folks who are fed up with corruption and unfairness – all those people out there who want to do something about a system that no longer serves anyone very well.”
New Mexico Green Party activists are raising money to cover the substantial cost of seeking a remedy in court. Those who wish to support this effort may send contributions to the GPNM Legal Fund, PO Box 40281, Albuquerque, NM 87196.