Nineteen candidates for office from New Mexico yesterday joined in a bipartisan appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep their state primary on schedule.
The candidates want the court to stay a decision by a three-judge federal panel to delay the primary for all races, possibly until as late as September, because of its findings that the reapportionment plan for state legislative seats is unconstitutional. The primary originally was scheduled for June 1.
The judicial plan threw out the state's legislative redistricting plan earlier this month, saying that the votes-cast formula used by the legislature to establish precinct populations led "to a result which is constitutionally impermissible."
However, the panel made no constitutional objection to the congressional redistricting plan, for which census figures were used to establish precinct population.
On April 13 the New Mexico state legislature asked the judicial panel to permit the state to have a single primary, either on June 1 on the basis of the districts the court had ruled unacceptable, or later this summer, with new reapportioned legislative districts.
The state felt that a single primary would avoid the expense and the potential for confusion and low turnout that would be produced with two primaries--one for legislative races, the other for county, statewide and congressional races.
The federal panel responded by delaying the June 1 primary.
Eleven Democratic candidates for statewide and congressional offices, led by U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Bingaman, appealed to the panel to reinstate the June 1 primary for congressional and statewide offices, contending that the judges exceeded their authority in the case and that the action placed an unreasonable financial burden on candidates.
When the panel denied the appeal, the candidates, joined by eight Republicans, filed an appeal with Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White.
The group is citing a Supreme Court ruling on a Texas congressional redistricting earlier this month in which the court said that a "District Court modification of a state plan should be limited to those necessary to cure any constitutional or statutory defect." The Bingaman group claims that there was no constitutional argument with congressional redistricting, and the federal panel thus had no right to delay the June 1 primary.
The question has been placed before the full court, and no decision is expected before Friday.