Group believes it has enough signatures for anti-abortion ordinance vote

Jan. 24—Members of Eastern New Mexico Rising believe they have enough signatures to bring about a Clovis citywide election over the city's anti-abortion ordinance.

Group co-founder Laura Wight Monday spoke of plans to deliver the petition pages to Clovis City Clerk LeighAnn Melancon at her office Tuesday afternoon.

"Right now we're at 467 for the Clovis petitions," Wight said.

That 467 represents almost 200 more signatures than are needed for the drive.

"We went over," Wight said. "We know that some of them may be invalid. They have to be registered voters, they have to physically live in Clovis. We wanted to overshoot the number just to be safe."

Wight said the group had many people out in the community, who were trained to get the signatures.

Wight said she and her group garnered stories from the experience, most of them positive.

"Even tonight (Mondady) my husband and I went out and got signatures from an elderly couple on oxygen," Wight said "They said 'this is so important, we can't let this stand.'"

Wight said the group "did a lot of house calls."

"Many younger folks we met were shocked this was even an issue," she said.

"We really didn't have anybody who was angry, really didn't have negativity."

Wight said she and the group are optimistic the Clovis vote "will be a go."

Wight said the group will "keep moving in that direction."

"Unless we hear an affirmative from the New Mexico Supreme Court on Torrez's writ or if the New Mexico Legislature passes something that nullifies the ordinance," Wight said. "If either of those happen we would withdraw our petition to save the city money."

New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez Monday filed a writ of mandamus with the state Supreme Court seeking to nullify the Clovis, Hobbs, Roosevelt and Lea County anti-abortion ordinances.

Eastern New Mexico Rising, following the city charter, had to collect signatures of 20% of the voters who cast ballots in the last municipal election. The last municipal election attracted 1,346 voters, meaning the group had to secure at least 270 valid signatures from registered voters.

"It's in the city charter," Melancon said of the measure that allows citizens to challenge city ordinances soon after adoption.

The charter reads: "If within thirty days following the adoption of an ordinance, a petition signed by registered voters in a number more than twenty percent of the number of voters who voted at the previous regular municipal election is presented to the Commission, asking that the ordinance in question be submitted to a special election for its adoption or rejection, the ordinance shall become ineffective and the Commission shall provide for an election on the measure within sixty days of the filing of the petition.

"If a majority of the votes cast favor the measure, it shall take effect immediately. If a majority of the votes cast are against the measure, it shall not take effect."

This particular petition reads: "The undersigned voters of the city of Clovis ask that a special election be conducted on the adoption or rejection of the city of Clovis ordinance No. 2184-2022, an ordinance requiring abortion providers in the city of Clovis to comply with federal law."

"If the petition is certified it would be a special election done by postal ballot," Melancon said. "This would be my first postal election."

The exact cost of the balloting has not been determined, but Melancon estimated it would cost more than $77,000.

"Each ballot will cost $4," she said. "That's the cost of printing the ballot, three envelopes are part of the ballot, and there's postage. There are 19,327 registered voters in Clovis so we're sending ballots to all of them. The total would be over $77,000."

Once the petition pages are turned in to Melancon the signatures will need to be verified and certified.

Wight said Melancon and city attorney Jared Morris have been "great helping us through this process."