School Board Elections In November? Supreme Court May Decide Yes

Courtesy image of New Mexico Supreme Court, which will soon rule on a case brought by the League of Women Voters regarding the scheduling of school board elections.

School Board Elections In November? Supreme Court May Decide Yes

At 9 a.m. on September 14 the New Mexico Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments on the League of Women Voters vs. the Advisory Committee to the NM Compilation Commission case, known as “the school elections case.” The case that the League filed in 2015 argues that the electorate actually did approve Constitutional Amendments in 2008 and in 2014 allowing school elections to be held at the same time as other non-partisan elections, including those that happen during the general election in November each year.

Before 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, eligible New Mexican women were allowed only to vote in school elections, which is why they have been held separately from other elections.  Given that women have had the right to vote in all elections for nearly a hundred years, the League argues that there is no reason for New Mexico not to combine school elections with other non-partisan elections. 

Several other organizations have filed “Friend of the Court” or “Amicus Curiae briefs” in support of League’s case. These organizations include the NM Association of Counties on behalf of the NM County Clerks, Common Cause New Mexico, Disability Rights New Mexico, and the Drug Policy Alliance. 

The issue that will decide this case comes down to intent in a constitutional amendment the voters adopted in 2010. The League of Women Voters contends that only a simple majority was required by the amendment rather than a super-majority since no voting rights would be restricted by the amendment.  The League maintains that it is a convenience to voters to hold school elections at the same time as other non-partisan elections.  It increases turnout, so that more of the electorate has an opportunity to choose who will serve on their school boards and to make funding decisions. Voter participation is fundamental to our representative democracy, and education is the keystone.

If the Supreme Court is persuaded by the League’s argument, the New Mexico Constitution will not only allow school elections to be combined with other non-partisan elections, it will remove the archaic and offensive language denying “idiots” and “insane persons” the right to vote. That language was in Constitutional Amendment Number 3, approved by the majority of voters in 2010.

Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto is the League’s pro-bono legal counsel and a member of the League of Women Voters of Central New Mexico.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages civic engagement and voter participation. The League never supports or opposes candidates or parties. Advocacy is based on positions derived after careful study through member consensus.