In 1910 statehood was just around
the corner, and New Mexico voters elected delegates to a convention that drew up
a constitution for the proposed new state.
Of the 100 delegates, initiative
and referendum supporters included 23 Democrats, 19 Democrat-Populist
"Fusionists," and at least a dozen independent Republicans: a majority of at
least 54 percent. The Albuquerque Journal noted, however, that "every one of the
candidates whom the Journal attacked as bosses, railroad attorneys, and
corporation lawyers have [sic] been elected to the Constitutional Convention."
The Republican Party, which
dominated the convention with 58 delegates, set up procedures so that its
leaders - the anti-I&R "Old Guard" - ran the meeting. The independent
Republicans were enticed to drop their push for I&R by a promise of support for
their pet proposal, a constitutional provision mandating popular election of
state supreme court justices and corporation commissioners. Once this was done,
the Democrats and Fusionists knew that the Republican leaders could prevent I&R
from even coming up for a vote. Rather than lose on both initiative and
referendum, the Democrats and Fusionists decided to drop initiative and push for
a referendum provision alone.
The referendum provision passed
by a vote of 65 to 25 in October 1910. A month later the convention approved the
entire constitution, which was then sent to the voters for ratification. It
passed, although there was much public dissatisfaction with the lack of an
George Judson King, a leader of
the national I&R movement who visited New Mexico while the convention was in
progress, described the situation as typical: "It is the same story here as in
every state, people for it, corporations against it, politicians trying to
straddle the issue and save their scalps."
Between 1912 and 1988 only two
referred measures qualified for the ballot (in 1950 and 1964). Both were
sponsored by citizen groups seeking to overrule laws governing state nominating
conventions. In both cases a majority of voters cast their ballots to uphold
the enactments of the legislature.
David Schmidt, Citizen Lawmakers: The Ballot