Voting 101: Municipal Elections

By Jonathan Baca, Staff Reporter

Local government can affect our lives in profound ways, and with Albuquerque’s municipal elections coming up, the Chronicle has gathered research about the basics of our city government’s inner workings to help students understand how local politics works, and how important it can be to our lives. For first time voters, or for anyone who has never voted at a local level, we hope this information helps in making an informed choice.


Albuquerque is a home rule municipality with a mayor-council government. The Executive and Legislative branches of city government work kind of like a small, local version of the President and Congress of the United States. The City Council is our main legislative body, representing our citizens, and introducing and voting on all of our laws and resolutions. The mayor is our chief executive officer, making our city’s budget, appointing heads of boards and committees. The mayor has the added duties of overseeing all the departments of our local services. Albuquerque does not elect our municipal judges. All local elections are non-partisan, or non-supportive of any specific political parties or policies, and anyone from any party can run for office, by getting enough people to sign a petition.

The Mayor

In Albuquerque’s system, the Mayor’s office is powerful, with lots of responsibilities which has far-reaching influences throughout the state. If fifty percent of voters choose a single candidate, that candidate becomes the mayor. If no one receives fifty percent of the vote, there is a run-off election between the two candidates with the most votes.

• Elected every four years, for four year terms; no term limit

• Chief Executive Officer

• Appoints and can remove city officials

• In charge of local police department; appoints Chief of Police

• Is head of the city’s water and sewer authorities, and oversees services like trash pickup

• Proposes the city’s budget, every year, to the City Council

• Has the power to veto decisions of the Council

• Can propose Executive

The City Council

The City Council is Albuquerque’s legislative branch. There are nine council­ors, one for each district in Albuquerque. Citizens vote for only their own councilor, the one who represents the district that they live in. Any Albuquerque resident can attend City Council meetings, and can discuss any issue they choose, from local con­cerns like potholes to their opinion of controversial laws like the red light cameras. In this way, local government can be the most truly democratic form, where a single citizen’s voice can make the most difference in their lives.

• Elected to four year terms

• Half of the councilors are elected every two years, on a rotating basis

• Each represents one district of Albuquerque

• Main Legislative body of the city

Introduces and votes on:

• Resolutions – mandates or prevents something; dictates policy; examples are appropriations, adopting budgets and plans, preliminary actions on bonds, recent example: A city policy for no tolerance of gender pay inequality

• Ordinances – creates or amends municipal laws; always used for police power legislation ( something where it is against the law not to follow); used to adopt taxes or fees, and city organization and operation matters…..recent example: establishing of the Albuquerque Minimum Wage Ordinance

• Executive Communications – legislation from the Mayor sent for approval: appointments to boards or commissions, and contracts and grants for city, example: the City Budget

• Can overrule a mayoral veto with a two-thirds majority

• Voters can only vote for one city councilor each election, and only for the District they are registered to vote in

• Any citizen can address the Council at every Council Meeting, and can dis­cuss any topic of concern

• Most local level of all government; place where an individual’s voice can have the greatest impact

Local Voting Locations

To find out which district you live in, and who is running for that district’s City Councilor, go to, Sources:,

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