SANTA FE — New Mexico is currently one of roughly 30 states that do not allow for the recall of state elected officials.
But that would change under a proposed constitutional amendment that cleared its first House committee Monday when a Democratic lawmaker joined with Republicans to advance the proposal.
High-profile recall efforts have launched in other states, including in California where Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom survived a bitter recall election in October.
Rep. Stefani Lord, R-Sandia Park, who is one of the sponsors of this year’s proposal, House Joint Resolution 12, said Monday it would allow voters to take action if elected officials alienate the electorate.
“I really believe if people are super unhappy with someone, they should be able to recall them,” Lord said.
However, some lawmakers expressed misgivings about a provision in the measure that would install the candidate with the second-highest number of votes in an election as the successor to any elected official removed from office through a recall effort.
“I do think the legislation needs to be worked on … because it doesn’t work in its current form,” said Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell.
But the proposal won approval in the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on a 4-3 vote, when Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, joined with three GOP legislators, including Nibert, in voting in support.
In all, 19 states currently allow for recall elections of state elected officials, including Colorado, Arizona and Nevada, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
While New Mexico does not currently allow for recall elections targeted at statewide officials or officials, the state Constitution does allow for recall attempts to be launched against county officials and school board members. State law also lays out a process for recall elections targeting certain elected municipal officeholders.
Elected officials in New Mexico can be removed from office only through impeachment, which requires legislative action.
Under this year’s recall proposal, at least 25 percent of voters who cast ballots in the last general election that the targeted official ran in would have to sign a petition. If the signatures were determined to be valid, a special election would then have to be held within 90 days.
The measure now advances to the House Judiciary Committee.
(Dan Boyd is the Capitol Bureau Chief for the Albuquerque Journal.)