On March 13, the New Mexico House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass legislation to update the state’s campaign finance system for judicial elections. The bill now heads to Gov. Susana Martinez for final approval. The bill would establish a system where participating candidates would receive an initial public finance grant from the state, and then get a four to one match for small donor contributions of up to $100.
The legislation responds to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett, in which the Court struck down “trigger fund” provision that was the centerpiece of public financing laws in states including New Mexico, Arizona, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. Last year the Brennan Center defended West Virginia’s provision in the judicial context, but the West Virginia Supreme Court concluded that while public financing of judicial elections furthers compelling state interests in a fair and independent judiciary, the U.S. Supreme Court had foreclosed trigger funds as unconstitutional.
The Brennan Center applauds the bipartisan solution to the problem of designing a public financing program that protects scarce public resources while offering enough funding to allow publicly financed candidates to effectively compete against non-participating candidates. Other states, including New York and West Virginia, are also considering innovative public financing programs to increase the voice of ordinary voters and reduce the corrosive influence of big money in politics.
Photo by puroticorico.