Voting Interest

  It is common knowledge that New Mexico voters traditionally are less interested in constitutional amendments than they are in the selection of public officers. Maybe one explanation for that might be the difficulty of understanding some of the complicated proposals placed on the ballot with only a brief ballot title to guide voters. Fuller explanations are printed in the legal notice section of newspapers, but few voters are familiar with this portion of their newspaper or they do not read it. The secretary of state and the legislative council service publish analysis of constitutional amendments and those are distributed publicly through the internet and through organizations like the league of women voters.

One customary measurement of voter interest is the comparison of the total vote cast on a proposed amendment with the total vote cast for governor in the same election. Table 4 shows voter non participation on constitutional amendments in general elections from 1911 to 2004. In 1970, for example, on the question of four-year terms for state executive officers, a total of 139,148 votes was cast expressing a "yes" or "no" option. In that same election, 290,364 votes were cast for all candidates for governor. This means that 52 percent of those voting for governor were unconcerned with the question of the term length. Historically, 52 percent is not a high percentage of voter disinterest on constitutional amendments. The extreme level of disinterest was in 1946 when 83.7 percent of those voting for governor failed to express a preference on the questions of eliminating the split-session legislature and limitations on property tax exemptions.

Between the 1982 and 2004 general elections, there was a marked increase in voter interest. The percentage of non participation by voters in the general election ranged from a low in 1994 of 6.9 on CA 8, pertaining to lottery and gaming, to a high of 38.3 in 1982, pertaining to a proposal on the severance tax permanent fund. Viewed another way, the voter participation of 93.1 percent in 1994 on the lottery and gaming amendment was the highest since the 94.9 percent participation vote on the 1911 Blue Ballot Amendment.

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