RELATING TO ELECTIONS; ENACTING THE VOTER ACTION ACT; PROVIDING FOR VOLUNTARY PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCING OF ELECTIONS FOR COMMISSIONERS OF THE PUBLIC REGULATION COMMISSION; PRESCRIBING PENALTIES; MAKING AN APPROPRIATION.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO:
Section 1. A new section of the Election Code is enacted to read:
"SHORT TITLE.--Sections 1 through 17 of this act may be cited as the "Voter Action Act"."
Section 2. A new section of the Election Code is enacted to read:
"DEFINITIONS.--As used in the Voter Action Act:
A. "applicant candidate" means a candidate who is running for a covered office and who is seeking to be a certified candidate in a primary or general election;
B. "certified candidate" means a candidate running for a covered office who chooses to obtain financing pursuant to the Voter Action Act and is certified as a Voter Action Act candidate;
C. "contested election" means an election in which there are more candidates for a position than the number to be elected to that position;
D. "covered office" means the office of public regulation commissioner;
E. "election cycle" means the primary and general elections for the same term of the same covered office, beginning on the day after the last general election for the office and ending with the general election; the primary election cycle begins on the first day of the election cycle and ends on the day of the primary election; the general election begins on the day after the primary election and ends on the day of the general election;
F. "fund" means the public election fund;
G. "noncertified candidate" means either a candidate running for a covered office who does not choose to participate in the Voter Action Act and who is not seeking to be a certified candidate or a candidate who declares his intent to participate but who fails to qualify;
H. "qualifying contribution" means a donation of five dollars ($5.00) in the form of cash or a check or money order payable to the fund in support of an applicant candidate that is:
(1) made by a registered voter who is eligible to vote for the covered office that the applicant candidate is seeking;
(2) made during the designated qualifying period and obtained through efforts made with the knowledge and approval of the applicant candidate; and
(3) acknowledged by a receipt that identifies the contributor's name and residential address on forms provided by the bureau of elections and that is signed by the contributor, one copy of which is attached to the list of contributors and sent to the bureau of elections;
I. "qualifying period" means:
(1) for major party applicant candidates for public regulation commissioner, the period beginning October 1 immediately preceding the election year and ending at 5:00 p.m. on the third Tuesday of March of the election year; and
(2) for independent and minor party candidates, the period beginning February 1 of the election year and ending that year at 5:00 p.m. on the filing date for independent or minor party candidates for the office for which the candidate is running;
J. "secretary" means the secretary of state or the office of the secretary of state;
K. "seed money" means a contribution raised for the primary purpose of enabling applicant candidates to collect qualifying contributions and petition signatures; and
L. "total vote" means the total number of votes cast in the last general election for all candidates for governor in the district in which the candidate is running."
Section 3. A new section of the Election Code is enacted to read:
"TERMS OF PARTICIPATION--DECLARATION OF INTENT.--
A. A candidate choosing to obtain financing pursuant to the Voter Action Act shall first file with the secretary a declaration of intent to participate in that act as an applicant candidate for a stated covered office. The declaration of intent shall be filed with the secretary prior to or during the qualifying period according to forms and procedures developed by the secretary.
B. An applicant candidate choosing to participate in the Voter Action Act shall submit a declaration of intent prior to collecting any qualifying contributions and make explicit in the declaration that the candidate has complied with and will continue to comply with that act's contribution and expenditure limits and all other requirements set forth in that act and rules issued by the secretary.
C. A candidate shall not be eligible to become an applicant candidate if the candidate has accepted contributions totaling five hundred dollars ($500) or more or made expenditures totaling five hundred dollars ($500) or more between the beginning of the qualifying period and filing a declaration of intent."
Section 4. A new section of the Election Code is enacted to read:
"QUALIFYING CONTRIBUTIONS.--Applicant candidates shall obtain qualifying contributions as follows:
A. the applicant candidate shall obtain qualifying contributions from that number of registered voters that is equal to at least one quarter percent of the total vote;
B. applicant candidates may accept qualifying contributions from persons who become registered within the statutory time frame that would enable that person to vote in the primary election;
C. voters registered as independent are not excluded from making qualifying contributions but shall be registered within the statutory time frame as independent; and
D. no payment, gift or anything of value shall be given in exchange for a qualifying contribution."
Section 5. A new section of the Election Code is enacted to read:
A. An applicant candidate may collect seed money from individual donors and political action committees in amounts of no more than one hundred dollars ($100) per donor or committee. An applicant candidate may contribute an amount of seed money from his own funds up to the limits specified in Subsection H of this section.
B. An applicant candidate may collect and spend seed money during the sixty days immediately preceding the qualifying period and throughout the qualifying period.
C. An applicant candidate may not collect seed money from a corporation, association or partnership formed under state law or from labor organizations.
D. An applicant candidate may not collect or spend seed money for any purpose after certification and before the end of the election cycle for which the candidate was certified, but after the election cycle may carry forward to the next election cycle any unspent seed money to be used as seed money.
E. If a certified candidate is defeated or is elected and decides not to run again as an applicant candidate, any unspent seed money shall be forfeited to the fund.
F. After becoming an applicant candidate and prior to certification, an applicant candidate shall not accept contributions, except for seed money or qualifying contributions.
G. An incumbent elected prior to 2006 who was not an applicant candidate when elected but declares his intent to become an applicant candidate in accordance with the Voter Action Act may transfer from his campaign fund for use as seed money up to the limits for contributions and expenditures specified in Subsection H of this section.
H. An applicant candidate shall limit seed money contributions and expenditures to five thousand dollars ($5,000)."
Section 6. A new section of the Election Code is enacted to read:
A. Upon receipt of a final submittal of qualifying contributions by an applicant candidate, the secretary shall determine whether the applicant candidate has:
(1) signed and filed a declaration of intent to obtain financing pursuant to the Voter Action Act in accordance with the requirements of that act;
(2) submitted the appropriate number of qualifying contributions;
(3) qualified as a candidate pursuant to other applicable state election law;
(4) complied with seed money contribution and expenditure restrictions; and
(5) otherwise met the requirements for obtaining financing pursuant to the Voter Action Act.
B. The secretary shall certify applicant candidates complying with the requirements of this section as certified candidates as soon as possible and no later than ten days after final submittal of qualifying contributions and certification as a candidate pursuant to other applicable state election law.
C. A certified candidate shall comply with all requirements of the Voter Action Act after certification and throughout the primary election and general election cycles. A certified candidate who accepts public campaign finance funds for the primary election shall comply with all the requirements of the Voter Action Act for the remainder of the election cycle in question, even if he decides not to accept such funds for the general election."
Section 7. A new section of the Election Code is enacted to read:
"GUIDELINES AND RESTRICTIONS FOR CONTRIBUTIONS TO AND EXPENDITURES OF CERTIFIED CANDIDATES.--
A. All money distributed to a certified candidate shall be used for that candidate's campaign-related purposes in the election cycle in which the money was distributed.
B. A certified candidate shall return to the fund any amount that is unspent or unencumbered at the time that person ceases to be a candidate before a primary or general election for which the fund money was distributed.
C. A certified candidate shall limit total campaign expenditures and debts to the amount of money distributed to that candidate from the fund. A certified candidate shall not accept contributions or loans from any other source except his political party, as specified in Section 8 of the Voter Action Act.
D. A certified candidate shall return to the secretary, within two weeks after the primary election, any amount that is unspent or unencumbered by the date of the primary election for direct deposit into the fund.
E. A certified candidate shall return to the secretary, within two weeks after the general election, any amount that is unspent or unencumbered by the date of the general election for direct deposit into the fund."
Section 8. A new section of the Election Code is enacted to read:
"POLITICAL PARTY EXPENDITURES--CONTRIBUTIONS TO CERTIFIED CANDIDATES.--
A. A certified candidate may accept monetary or in-kind contributions from a political party; provided that the aggregate amount of such contributions from all political party committees combined does not exceed the equivalent of ten percent of the value of that candidate's aggregate public financing per election cycle.
B. All in-kind contributions from a political party distributed to certified candidates shall be used for campaign-related purposes.
C. Nothing in this section shall prevent political party funds from being used for general operating expenses of the party; conventions; nominating and endorsing candidates; identifying, researching and developing the party's position on issues; party platform activities; noncandidate-specific voter registration; noncandidate-specific get-out-the-vote drives; travel expenses for noncandidate party leaders and staff; and other noncandidate-specific party building activities."
Section 9. A new section of the Election Code is enacted to read:
"CANDIDATE REPORTING REQUIREMENTS.--
A. The secretary shall publish guidelines outlining permissible campaign-related expenditures.
B. Applicant candidates shall file a report listing seed money contributions and expenditures with their application for certification.
C. Applicant candidates shall file qualifying contributions with the secretary during the qualifying period according to procedures developed by the secretary. In developing these procedures, the secretary shall use existing campaign reporting procedures and deadlines whenever practical.
D. Certified candidates shall report expenditures according to the campaign reporting requirements specified in the Election Code.
E. In addition to the campaign contribution and expenditure reports specified in the Election Code, all noncertified candidates who have as an opponent a certified candidate shall report to the secretary ten days before the primary and general elections the amount of money spent by that noncertified candidate. This report shall include all previously unreported transactions through 5:00 p.m. two days before the report is due.
F. A person or political committee that makes expenditures to influence a race involving a certified candidate shall report to the secretary the amount that person or political committee has spent. These reports shall include all previously unreported transactions through 5:00 p.m. two days before the report is due, and shall be submitted as follows:
(1) for the primary election, by 5:00 p.m. on the second Monday in May, by 5:00 p.m. on the eleventh day before the election and by 5:00 p.m. on the Thursday before the election; and
(2) for the general election, by 5:00 p.m. the first Tuesday in October, by 5:00 p.m. on the eleventh day before the election and by 5:00 p.m. on the Thursday before the election."
Section 10. A new section of the Election Code is enacted to read:
"PUBLIC ELECTION FUND--CREATION--USE.--
A. There is created in the state treasury the "public election fund" solely for the purposes of:
(1) financing the election campaigns of certified candidates for covered offices;
(2) paying administrative and enforcement costs of the Voter Action Act; and
(3) carrying out all other specified provisions of the Voter Action Act.
B. The state treasurer shall invest the funds as other state funds are invested, and all income derived from the fund shall be credited directly to the fund. Remaining balances at the end of a fiscal year shall remain in the election fund and not revert to the general fund.
C. Money received from the following sources shall be deposited directly into the fund:
(1) qualifying contributions that have been submitted to the secretary;
(2) any recurring balance of unspent fund money distributed to a certified candidate who does not remain a candidate through the primary or general election period for which the money was distributed;
(3) money that remains unspent or unencumbered by a certified candidate following the date of the primary election;
(4) money that remains unspent or unencumbered by a certified candidate following the date of the general election;
(5) unspent seed money that cannot be used for any other purpose; and
(6) money appropriated by the legislature.
D. The fund shall be funded at three hundred thousand dollars ($300,000) per year segregated from proceeds collected as follows:
(1) one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) from inspection and supervision fees collected pursuant to Section 62-8-8 NMSA 1978;
(2) one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) from utility and carrier inspection fees collected pursuant to Section 63-7-20 NMSA 1978; and
(3) one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) from the insurance premium tax collected pursuant to Section 59A-6-2 NMSA 1978."
Section 11. A new section of the Election Code is enacted to read:
"DETERMINATION OF FUND AMOUNT.--
A. By January 1, 2007, and every two years thereafter, the secretary shall prepare and provide to the legislature a report documenting, evaluating and making recommendations relating to the administration, implementation and enforcement of the Voter Action Act.
B. In the report, the secretary shall set out the revenues received to date, the expected costs to the fund for the next election cycle and the amount of the annual appropriation from the legislature that will be required to meet this need."
Section 12. A new section of the Election Code is enacted to read:
"TIMING OF FUND DISTRIBUTION.--
A. Beginning with the election cycle that ends with the general election in 2006, the secretary shall distribute money from the fund to certified candidates.
B. For a primary election certified candidate, the secretary shall distribute the amount due to that certified candidate for that covered office within one week of certification.
C. For a candidate certified for the general election, the secretary shall distribute the amount due to that certified candidate for that covered office within one week after the primary election or, for a minor party or independent candidate, within one week after certification of the candidate."
Section 13. A new section of the Election Code is enacted to read:
"AMOUNT OF FUND DISTRIBUTION.--
A. By April 1, 2005, the secretary shall determine the amount of money to be distributed to each certified candidate for the election cycle ending with the general election in 2006, based on the type of election and the provisions of Subsections B through E of this section.
B. For contested primary elections, the amount of money to be distributed is equal to the average amount of campaign expenditures made by all candidates receiving ten percent or greater of votes cast in all contested primary election races for the immediately preceding four primary elections for public regulation commissioner.
C. For uncontested primary elections, the amount of money to be distributed is equal to fifty percent of the average amount of campaign expenditures made by all candidates during all uncontested primary election races, or for contested races if the amount is lower, for the immediately preceding four primary elections for public regulation commissioner.
D. For contested general elections, the amount of money to be distributed is equal to the average amount of campaign expenditures made by all candidates receiving thirty percent or greater of votes cast in all contested general election races for the immediately preceding four general elections for public regulation commissioner.
E. For uncontested general elections, the amount of money to be distributed is equal to fifty percent of the average amount of campaign expenditures made by all candidates receiving thirty percent or greater of votes cast in all uncontested general election races for the immediately preceding four general elections for public regulation commissioner. If a general election race that is initially uncontested later becomes contested because of the qualification of an independent or minor party candidate to appear on the ballot for that race, an additional amount of money will be distributed to the certified candidate to make that candidate's total distribution amount equal to the amount distributed pursuant to Subsection D of this section.
F. Once the certification for candidates for the primary election has been completed, the secretary shall calculate the total amount of money to be distributed in the primary election cycle, based on the number of certified candidates and the allocations specified in this section. The secretary shall increase the total amount by twenty percent to provide funds for additional matching funds in the primary election. The secretary shall also prepare an estimate of the total amount of money that might be distributed in the general election cycle. This estimate shall be increased by twenty percent to provide funds for additional matching funds in the general election. If the total amount to be distributed in the primary election cycle, plus the added twenty percent and the estimated total amount to be distributed in the general election cycle, plus the added twenty percent, all taken together, exceed the amount expected to be available in the fund, the secretary shall allocate the amount available between the primary and general election cycles. This allocation shall be based on the ratio of the two total amounts.
G. If the allocation specified in Subsection F of this section is greater than the total amount available for distribution, then the amounts to be distributed to individual candidates, specified in Subsections B through E of this section, shall each be reduced by the same percentage as the reduction by which the total amount needed has been reduced relative to the total amount available.
H. If the immediately preceding four election cycles do not contain sufficient data for the secretary to determine the amount to be distributed for an office, the secretary shall use data from the most recent applicable elections for that office. If no applicable elections for that office contain sufficient data, the secretary shall set an amount based on data from elections for comparable offices.
I. At least every two years after January 1, 2007, the secretary shall evaluate and modify as necessary the dollar values originally determined by Subsections B through E or H of this section and shall consider and account for inflation in the evaluations."
Section 14. A new section of the Election Code is enacted to read:
"MATCHING FUNDS.--When a noncertified candidate has one or more opponents who are certified candidates and his campaign finance report or group of reports shows that the sum of the noncertified candidate's expenditures and obligations made, or funds raised or borrowed, whichever is greater, alone or in conjunction with expenditures made independently of the candidate to influence the election on behalf of the candidate, exceeds the amount distributed to the certified candidate, the secretary shall issue immediately to any opposing certified candidate an additional amount equivalent to the excess amount reported by the non-participating opposing candidate. Total matching funds to a certified candidate in an election are limited to twice the amount originally distributed to that candidate pursuant to Section 13 of the Voter Action Act."
Section 15. A new section of the Election Code is enacted to read:
"ADMINISTRATION--SECRETARY OF STATE--DUTIES.--
A. The secretary shall adopt rules to ensure effective administration of the Voter Action Act.
B. The rules shall include procedures for:
(1) qualifications, certification and disbursement of revenues and return of unspent fund revenues;
(2) obtaining qualifying contributions;
(3) certification of candidates;
(4) collection of revenues; and
(5) return of fund disbursements and other money to the fund."
Section 16. A new section of the Election Code is enacted to read:
"APPEALS.--The procedure for challenging a certification decision by the secretary is as follows:
A. a person aggrieved by a certification decision or a decision regarding the distribution of matching funds may appeal to the secretary within three days of the decision. The appeal shall be in writing and shall set forth the reasons for appeal;
B. within five days after an appeal is properly made, and after due notice is given to the parties in dispute, the secretary shall hold a hearing whereby:
(1) the appellant has the burden of providing evidence to demonstrate that the secretary's decision was improper; and
(2) the secretary shall rule on the appeal within three days after the completion of the hearing;
C. the parties in dispute may appeal the decision of the secretary by commencing an action in district court; and
D. certified candidates whose certification is revoked on appeal shall return to the secretary any unspent money distributed from the fund. If the secretary or court finds that an appeal was made frivolously or to result in delay or hardship, the secretary or court may sanction the moving party by requiring the party to pay costs of the administrative hearing, the court hearing and the opposing parties."
Section 17. A new section of the Election Code is enacted to read:
A. In addition to other penalties that may be applicable, a person who violates a provision of the Voter Action Act is subject to a civil penalty of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000) per violation. In addition to a fine, a certified candidate found in violation of that act may be required to return to the fund all amounts distributed to the candidate from the fund. If the secretary makes a determination that a violation of that act has occurred, the secretary shall impose a fine or transmit the finding to the attorney general for prosecution. In determining whether a certified candidate is in violation of the expenditure limits of that act, the secretary may consider as a mitigating factor any circumstances out of the candidate's control.
B. A person who willfully or knowingly violates the provisions of the Voter Action Act or rules of the secretary or knowingly makes a false statement in a report required by that act is guilty of a fourth degree felony and, if he is a certified candidate, shall return to the fund all money distributed to that candidate."
Section 18. Section 59A-6-2 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1984, Chapter 127, Section 102, as amended) is amended to read:
"59A-6-2. PREMIUM TAX.--
A. The premium tax provided for in this section shall apply as to the following taxpayers:
(1) each insurer authorized to transact insurance in New Mexico;
(2) each insurer formerly authorized to transact insurance in New Mexico and receiving premiums on policies remaining in force in New Mexico, except that this provision shall not apply as to an insurer that withdrew from New Mexico prior to March 26, 1955;
(3) each plan operating under provisions of Chapter 59A, Articles 46 through 49 NMSA 1978;
(4) each property bondsman, as that person is defined in Section 59A-51-2 NMSA 1978, as to any consideration received as security or surety for a bail bond in connection with a judicial proceeding, which consideration shall be considered "gross premiums" for the purposes of this section; and
(5) each unauthorized insurer that has assumed a contract or policy of insurance directly or indirectly from an authorized or formerly authorized insurer and is receiving premiums on such policies remaining in force in New Mexico, except that this provision shall not apply if a ceding insurer continues to pay the tax provided in this section as to such policy or contract.
B. Each such taxpayer shall pay in accordance with this subsection three and three-thousandths percent of the gross premiums and membership and policy fees received by it on insurance or contracts covering risks within this state during the preceding calendar year, less all return premiums, including dividends paid or credited to policyholders or contract holders and premiums received for reinsurance on New Mexico risks. For each calendar quarter, an estimated payment shall be made on April 15, July 15, October 15 and the following January 15. The estimated payments shall be equal to at least one-fourth of either the payment made during the previous calendar year or eighty percent of the actual payment due for the current calendar year, whichever is greater. The final adjustment for payments due for the prior year shall be made with the return which shall be filed on April 15 of each year, at which time all taxes for that year are due. Dividends paid or credited to policyholders or contract holders and refunds, savings, savings coupons and similar returns or credits applied or credited to payment of premiums for existing, new or additional insurance shall, in the amount so used, constitute premiums subject to tax under this section for the year in which so applied or credited. Provided that as to every insurer which throughout such preceding calendar year had at least forty percent of its admitted assets invested in New Mexico investments, as the same are defined in Subsection C of this section, the rate of such tax shall be nine-tenths of one percent in lieu of three percent; provided further that, effective January 1, 1992, the rate shall be one and four-tenths percent; effective July 1, 1992, the rate shall be one and nine-tenths percent; effective January 1, 1993, the rate shall be two and four-tenths percent; and effective July 1, 1993 and thereafter, the rate shall be three and three-thousandths percent.
C. New Mexico investments for the purpose of Subsection B of this section are defined as follows:
(1) real estate located within New Mexico;
(2) bonds or obligations of New Mexico or of any county or other subdivision thereof;
(3) bonds, debentures or secured obligations of any corporation that has fifty percent of its assets located within New Mexico;
(4) first mortgages secured by real estate located within New Mexico;
(5) deposits in state banks, national banks and trust companies having their principal place of business within New Mexico;
(6) policy loans to residents of New Mexico; and
(7) preferred and common stock of corporations having at least fifty percent of their assets located within New Mexico.
D. Nothing contained in Subsection C of this section shall be construed to affect any provision of Chapter 59A, Article 9 NMSA 1978.
E. Exempted from the tax imposed by Subsection B of this section are premiums attributable to insurance or contracts purchased by the state or any political subdivision and payments received by a health maintenance organization from the federal secretary of health and human services pursuant to a contract issued under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. Section 1395 mm(g)."
Section 19. Section 59A-6-5 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1984, Chapter 127, Section 105, as amended) is amended to read:
"59A-6-5. DISTRIBUTION OF INSURANCE DEPARTMENT
A. All money received by the insurance department for fees, licenses, penalties and taxes shall be paid daily by the superintendent to the state treasurer and by him credited to the "insurance department suspense fund" except as provided by:
(1) the Law Enforcement Protection Fund Act;
(2) Section 59A-6-1.1 NMSA 1978; and
(3) the Voter Action Act.
B. The superintendent may authorize refund of money erroneously paid as fees, licenses, penalties or taxes from the insurance department suspense fund under request for refund made within three years after the erroneous payment.
C. At the end of every month, the treasurer shall transfer to the "fire protection fund" the balance remaining in the insurance department suspense fund after applicable refunds made pursuant to Subsection B of this section, and derived from property and vehicle insurance business, and transfer to the general fund the balance remaining in the insurance department suspense fund derived from all other kinds of insurance business."
Section 20. Section 63-7-20 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1951, Chapter 194, Section 1, as amended) is amended to read:
"63-7-20. UTILITY AND CARRIER INSPECTION--FEE.--Each utility and carrier doing business in this state which is subject to the control and jurisdiction of the commission by virtue of the provisions of Article 11 of the constitution of New Mexico with respect to its rates and service shall pay annually to the commission a fee in performance of its duties as now provided by law. The fee for carriers shall not exceed two hundred fifty-six thousandths percent of its gross receipts from business transacted in New Mexico for the preceding calendar year. The fee for utilities shall not exceed five hundred eleven thousandths percent of its gross receipts from business transacted in New Mexico for the preceding calendar year. This sum shall be payable annually on or before January 20 or in equal quarterly installments on or before January 20, April 20, July 20 and October 20 in each year. No similar fee shall be imposed upon the utility or carrier. In the case of utilities or carriers engaged in interstate business, the fees shall be measured by the gross receipts of the utilities or carriers from intrastate business only for the preceding calendar year and not in any respect upon receipts derived wholly or in part from interstate business. As used in this section, "utility" includes telephone companies and transmission companies."
Section 21. Section 62-8-8 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1967, Chapter 96, Section 6, as amended) is amended to read:
"62-8-8. INSPECTION AND SUPERVISION FEE.--Each utility doing business in this state and subject to the control and jurisdiction of the commission with respect to its rates or service regulations shall pay annually to the state a fee for the inspection and supervision of such business in an amount equal to five hundred six thousandths percent of its gross receipts from business transacted in New Mexico for the preceding calendar year. That sum shall be payable on or before the last day of February in each year. An inspection and supervision fee shall be paid by utilities in addition to all property, franchise, license, intangible and other taxes, fees and charges provided by law. No similar inspection and supervision fee shall be measured by the amount of the gross receipts of such utility for the calendar year next preceding the date fixed in this section for the payment of the fee. In the case of utilities engaged in interstate business, the inspection and supervision fee shall be measured by the gross receipts of those utilities from intrastate business only for that preceding calendar year and not in any respect upon receipts derived wholly or in part from interstate business. No inspection and supervision fee shall be charged on the gross receipts from the sale of gas, water or electricity to a utility regulated by the commission for resale to the public."
Section 22. SEVERABILITY.--If any part of or application of the Voter Action Act is held invalid, the remainder of its provisions or its application to other situations or persons shall not be affected.
Section 23. EFFECTIVE DATE.--The effective date of the provisions of this act is July 1, 2003.