The Truth of the Referendum Project & and the Misleading Claims of the SOS

By Jodi Hendricks, New Mexico Family Action Movement

During the 2023 legislative session, we saw progressive ideals passed by our legislature while family values were offended, and faith values were mocked. Despite receiving over 1 million messages asking to protect families, elections, and religious freedom, elected officials ignored the voice of the people and pushed forward the most radical anti-family legislation New Mexico has ever seen. But the thing about family is that New Mexicans are willing to fight for it and it is in that passion to protect our families that the Referendum Project was born.

This project is a coalition of people from all over the state, from different political parties, creeds, and backgrounds who have come together because of their love for their families, faith, and freedoms.

The Referendum Project is an opportunity for New Mexicans to practice their constitutional right to “disapprove, suspend, or annul any law enacted by the legislature.” (NM Constitution Article IV, Section 1.)

Many New Mexicans disapprove of 1) the state taking away a parent’s right to be notified when their child accesses abortion or transgender treatments (HB7), 2) the state protecting an individual who takes our children to receive medical procedures without parental notification (SB13), bringing access or referrals to these services onto school campuses without requiring the parents be notified (SB397). We disapprove of election and voting process changes that will make our elections vulnerable to fraud and lack transparency (HB4, SB180). We disapprove of the state telling religious organizations that they can no longer make decisions based on their religious values (HB207).

The Referendum process allows us to petition these laws to be placed on the ballot in the next general election. Therefore, we submitted petition forms to the SOS for approval of the proper format. Unfortunately, the SOS took an over extended amount of time before finally providing us with an “approved example” of the form. The forms that are circulating meet all requirements as laid out in the approved example. Claims that our forms are invalid are false.

The SOS then made a claim that the bills being petitioned do not qualify for the referendum process due to the constitution’s exemption of laws designated as “providing for the preservation of the public peace, health or safety.”

There are two problems with the SOS claim. First, based on the separation of powers, the SOS does not possess the authority to make this designation, only the legislature does.

Second, if the legislature makes this determination the bill must contain three essential elements: the law must be effective immediately upon passage and approval; the law must receive a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber; the law must state in a separate section (emergency clause section) of the bill that the law is necessary for the preservation of public peace, health or safety, taking effect immediately.

The six laws being petitioned do not contain these essential elements. Claims that these laws do not qualify for referendum are false. 

On April 11, a Verified Emergency Petition for Declaratory Judgment was filed in the 13th Judicial district against the SOS to address her overstep of authority. Recent statements from the SOS have misled New Mexicans to believe that the case has been ruled on and has been dismissed. The SOS’ claim is false.

According to Ramona Goolsby, who filed this petition, “There was NO ruling made on the merits of the case. Judge Noel’s dismissal has been set aside as of today and the case has been reopened.” This case is open and ongoing. In response to the poor handling of this case, Ramona Goolsby filed a complaint with the Judicial Standards Committee on Friday, June 9, and has also filed an ethics complaint against the Secretary of State and the Attorney General with the New Mexico State Ethics Commission. Five other causes of action have been filed against the SOS in 4 other judicial districts across the state. At this time hearings have been set in two of those. In addition, Sen. Pirtle and Sen. Gallegos are filing a Notice of Support for our causes of action.

It is disheartening that leaders in New Mexico are actively blocking New Mexicans’ constitutional rights. We the people reserve the power. Why are our leaders so intent on keeping us from what is rightfully ours?