Headlines: NM Voter Registration Deadline, Rodella's Replacement, Navajo Language Requirement...

Oct 3, 2014

Credit Photo by buschap/Flickr (Creative Commons)

  New Mexico's Voter Registration Deadline Is Oct. 7The Associated Press

New Mexicans have only a few more days to become eligible to vote in the Nov. 4 general election.

Tuesday is the deadline to register as a voter. That's also the first day that New Mexicans can cast ballots in person at a county clerk's office.

County clerks also can start mailing out absentee ballots to voters on Tuesday.

Early voting will expand to more locations statewide on Oct. 18.

Nearly 1.3 million New Mexicans were registered to vote at the start of the month, according to the secretary of state's office.

Four years ago when Republican Susana Martinez was elected governor, nearly 608,000 New Mexicans cast ballots in the general election. That represented not quite 53 percent of those registered to vote.

New Sheriff Faces Challenges In Troubled NM County - The Associated Press & The Albuquerque Journal

A newly appointed sheriff in a troubled northern New Mexico county faces challenges in winning over supporters of his recently convicted predecessor while patrolling a vast area overrun by drug trafficking.

Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan takes over just a week after former Sheriff Thomas Rodella was convicted of brandishing a firearm and deprivation of rights during a traffic stop.

Rodella, once one of the most powerful politicians in the state, was ousted from office Thursday by county commissioners after he refused to resign.

Lujan had been fired as a Rio Arriba deputy by Rodella, but defeated him in a June Democratic primary by 200 votes.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, Lujan has had some troubles of his own.  As a former Santa Fe police officer, was charged by the state in 2002 with nine counts of attempt to evade or defeat taxes, and three counts of false statement and fraud.

He entered an Alford plea to two counts, which means he admitted no wrongdoing but acknowledged that he would likely be convicted if there were a trial.  An Alford plea is technically a guilty plea in criminal court.  The case was later discharged after Lujan served two years of probation, meaning he was not technically convicted. 

Navajo Presidential Hopeful Faces Language Hearing - The Associated Press

Navajo Nation Supreme Court justices say the tribe's president must be able to communicate in the Navajo language.

But the court left a decision on whether Chris Deschene (des-CHEE'-nee) is qualified to seek the top elected post up to another office.

The tribe's Office of Hearings and Appeals will take up the matter Friday in Window Rock. The office had dismissed grievances filed against Deschene over the language requirement as untimely.

But the high court says speaking fluent Navajo is a reasonable qualification for the presidency, and the office must consider the merits of the grievances.

Deschene acknowledges he's not fluent in Navajo but says he's working on it.

His critics say he lied in his candidate application and shouldn't appear on the November general election ballot.

NM Delegation Seeks Major Disaster Declaration - The Associated Press

Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation are asking President Barack Obama to take action on the state's request for a major disaster declaration due to summer flooding.

Severe storms in late July and early August resulted in flooding that damaged roads, bridges and other infrastructure in several New Mexico counties and tribal communities.

A disaster declaration would free up federal funding to help with recovery efforts and repairs.

Gov. Susana Martinez requested the declaration in a letter sent Monday.

Her office says damages resulting from the storms have currently been assessed at nearly $4 million. The greatest overall damage occurred at Acoma Pueblo, where access to the backcountry was cut off for residents.

Extreme weather also caused significant damage in southeastern New Mexico.

Teacher Retirement Board Settles With Ex-Chairman - The Associated Press and Albuquerque Journal

A New Mexico state government retirement board has paid its former chairman $125,000 for his legal expenses in defending himself in an investment scandal.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the payment to Bruce Malott settles a lawsuit that Malott filed two years ago when the Educational Retirement Board refused to pay his attorney fees.

The board based its action at the time on an attorney general's opinion and because Malott was also represented by lawyers hired by the state.

The board oversees a pension fund for working and retired teachers.

Malott was named as a defendant in five lawsuits over investments by the State Investment Council and the Educational Retirement Board during then-Gov. Bill Richardson's administration. Most of those lawsuits are pending in the court system.

Court Upholds Convictions Despite Jury SortingThe Associated Press and Albuquerque Journal

A New Mexico appellate court has upheld murder and other convictions for a woman who claimed she was denied a fair trial because a court clerk's policy segregated potential jurors who spoke only Spanish.

A divided Court of Appeals panel's Sept. 23 ruling in a case from Curry County said the District Court clerk's policy to sort jurors by language to reduce costs of interpreters violated the need to randomly select jurors.

However, the majority said Guadalupe Flores failed to prove the policy actually resulted in a jury not fair and impartial. A dissenting judge said the jury practice might violate both federal and state constitutions.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the 9th Judicial District's chief executive said the policy isn't used now and previously was used only briefly.

Work Planned At Bandelier National Monument - The Associated Press and Santa Fe New Mexican

Federal officials are soliciting public comment on a plan for $1 million of repairs and improvements to Bandelier National Monument, with much of the work aimed at responding to flood-related access problems.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the work planned by the National Park Service and the Federal Highway Administration would serve several purposes.

Those include enabling visitors to use picnic areas and back-country parking spaces in the wake of flooding since a major fire in 2011.

Other aspects of the work would allow improving access of part of the monument for fire suppression, search and rescue and trail maintenance.

The projects include construction of a new vehicle bridge over the Rito to los Frijoles and replacement of washed-out pedestrian bridges.