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N.M. High Court Upholds Voter-Intent Standard

(CN) - New Mexico's secretary of state must enforce the provision of state voting law that requires an unclear ballot to be unanimously deciphered by the presiding judges and precinct election judges, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled.

The League of Women Voters complained that this standard was not applied in the 2008 election. The state high court granted an emergency writ of mandamus and followed with Justice Bosson's opinion.

The secretary of state decided not to enforce the standard based on the state attorney general's opinion that the "intent of the voter" standard was vulnerable to a constitutional challenge.

The attorney general said the standard was "virtually indistinguishable" from the Florida standard criticized by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore (2000). The Supreme Court had rejected the "intent of the voter" standard as arbitrary and a violation of equal protection principles.

The secretary claimed she had a duty not to enforce the standard because it conflicts with federal law.

The state high court disagreed.

"We presume that the secretary will obey the law in implementing the (election) statute," Bosson wrote. "The hypothetical possibility that future violations may occur is an insufficient basis for striking down (the voter intent standard) now."

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