2019: the year to open NM primaries up to all voters - Open Primaries
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2019: the year to open NM primaries up to all voters

Posted by Russell Daniels on October 09, 2018 at 2:47 PM

Editorial: 2019 the year to open NM primaries up to all voters

this article was originally published by the editorial board of the Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico’s two gubernatorial candidates aren’t closing the door on open primaries, and that’s good news given the high percentage of new voters who are registering as independents in our state.

Of the 43,434 newly registered voters from March 2017 through August of this year, 23,380 – or nearly 54 percent of those who registered – either declined to state a party affiliation or registered as a Libertarian or a minor party.

Overall, about 22 percent of the state’s voters are now declined-to-state voters, commonly referred to as independents.

New Mexico has a closed primary system that bars voters who decline to state a party preference from casting ballots. That means that close to one in every four voters is being disfranchised during every primary election – elections they help foot the bill for through the taxes they pay. That’s unconscionable, and it’s wrong given that many races around the state are decided in primary elections because many candidates in New Mexico face no opposition beyond the primary.

The courts have previously rejected a constitutional challenge to the current system. Over the years, there have been attempts to change the law to allow independent voters to vote in primaries by, for example, having an independent voter pick the major political party whose primary they want to take part in. Those attempts have failed.

But independent voters shouldn’t lose hope just yet.

Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, the Democratic nominee for governor, supports opening primaries to independent voters as a way to promote voter participation and broaden the electorate that candidates must appeal to.

Congressman Steve Pearce, the Republican nominee for governor, is open to examining the idea of opening up primaries as a way to increase voter participation rates and reduce influence of party insiders.

Of course, if history is any indication, the real chore will be convincing state lawmakers that it’s time to dump our closed state primary system in favor of modified open primaries.

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