Posted on February 03, 2016 at 10:17 AM
Support for New Mexico Open Primary Elections Amendment
Open Primaries, a national leader on election reform, today announced the launch of a campaign to build support in the state House Judiciary Committee to approve HJR 12, the Open Primary Elections Constitutional Amendment. This bill will give all voters in New Mexico equal participation and say in their elections, bring competition back to electoral races and offer New Mexico’s citizens the functioning government they so desperately want. The group has established an educational web portal that includes a petition tool to encourage New Mexicans to take action by expressing their support for the bill to their legislator.
"As a registered independent and as a spokesperson for the 250,000 New Mexico independents excluded from our most important election, the primary, I would ask members of both parties in the legislature to look carefully at this bill and listen to the expert testimony in the coming days,” said Bob Perls, founder of New Mexico Open Primaries.
New Mexico’s current primary election system disenfranchises over 250,000 registered voters- twenty-two percent of the entire New Mexico electorate-who have refused to align with a political party. In order to exercise their right to vote in publicly funded, primary elections for state offices in New Mexico, these citizens must give up their freedom of association. To exercise their right to vote in a primary, they must publicly identify themselves as a member of a private organization, one of the very political parties they have rejected. No citizen of this state should be a second-class voter. They should not have to give up rights in order to participate in choosing their representatives. That's basic democracy. We must empower New Mexico’s citizens to vote!
By being excluded from voting in the primary, New Mexico’s 250,000 independent voters find themselves represented today by officials they were never able to cast a ballot for or against. In 2014, out of 341 public offices up for election, 199 of them were decided during the primary. This system discourages competition and has institutionalized unnecessary and anti-competitive barriers to participation. We should apply those same free market principles of open competition that work so well for businesses and consumers to our ballot so that we can get the best candidates representing our state, regardless of party affiliation. New Mexico’s citizens need a system that requires candidates to go out and court all voters. When you’ve had to go out and court all voters, you become more responsive to all the voters and become a better legislator.
Finally, New Mexico’s current primary election system is a contributing factor to the partisan dysfunction that is plaguing this great state. We are faced with a hyper-polarized climate that makes it almost impossible for even the most devoted public servants to govern. In New Mexico today, less than 5% of voters are deciding who represents 100% of their district in a closed primary. When the first round of voting is restricted to narrow party bases, we get a system that prioritizes party loyalty over the public good. Partisanship is poisoning our great democracy and leaving voters with the false choice of playing along or sitting it out.
Fortunately, because of New Mexico’s rich history, it already has open election systems. It is how all city councilmembers and mayors are chosen. Public opinion data suggests that New Mexicans are far more pleased with their local governments than either the state or federal level. It is a proven solution to a problem weakening this great state.
“The problem in New Mexico today is not left versus right but instead a system that is now largely uncompetitive, lacking true debate and one that is focused mostly on winning and not on governing. We urge the New Mexico House Judiciary Committee to take a leadership role in reforming our great democracy and pass this important bill. For all New Mexico’s citizens that are fed up with the partisan paralyses of government, HJR 12, the Open Primary Elections Constitutional Amendment, offers real hope for the future of this state,” said Jeremy Gruber, Senior Vice-President of Open Primaries.
To contact your representative and sign the petition, please visit the Open Primaries website.
Open Primaries is a national, nonprofit 501(c)(4) organization working to enact open and nonpartisan primary systems, counter efforts to impose closed primaries, educate voters, train and support spokespeople, and participate in the building of local, state and national open primaries coalitions. Open Primaries is a movement of diverse Americans who believe in a simple, yet radical idea: no American should be required to join a political party to exercise their right to vote.