Mayoral candidates disagree over voting change

Posted at: 06/10/2013 6:30 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

An attempt to change the rules for Albuquerque’s city election has accusations flying in the race for mayor.

City councilor Don Harris said his idea is to shorten the time for early voting before a runoff election, but two of the candidates for mayor are hollering “foul.”

Harris’s legislation would shorten the early vote period leading up to the runoff from 20 days to 7 days. It would not affect the early voting before the regular election in October. A council committee was scheduled for a hearing on the bill Monday night.

Harris is a Republican, like Mayor Richard Berry, who is running for re-election, and like retired police sergeant Paul Heh who is also running in the three-way race.

“ Why would he want to change it from 20 days to 7 days?” Heh  wondered. “ I smell politics all over this thing. I think it would absolutely benefit the mayor in some way or another.”

Retired Safe City Strike Force chief Pete Dinelli, a  Democrat, is the third candidate in the race.

“ It’s changing the rules in the middle of an election cycle,” said the longtime prosecutor. “ This is clearly an effort by the Republicans to have voter suppression and it will favor the incumbents. I think it is ill-advised and I would hope that the mayor would quickly denounce it.”

Mayor Berry’s office issued an email statement Monday afternoon, saying he “strongly supports early voting and will evaluate the bill on its merits once it is further through the legislative process.”

The regular city election is October 8. If none of the three men running for mayor gets over 50 percent of the vote, the runoff between the two leading candidates will be held November 19.