We must change the way we select, district and finance candidates - Open Primaries
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Posted by jesse shayne on March 14, 2017 at 5:25 PM

We must change the way we select, district and finance candidates

This article was written by New Mexico Open Primaries Founder Bob Perls

Our Legislature once again ignored the deep anger and seething resentment out here in the real world felt toward our political institutions. There is a revolution going on in case anyone missed the Sanders and Trump supporters both pushing against the insiders of their parties.

Yet, when it comes to passing important “process” reforms that could make the Legislature actually function and move New Mexico forward, too many incumbents voted “no.” I can tell you that incumbents blocking important reforms like open primaries, free and fair ballot access for all candidates, independent redistricting commissions and ethics commissions and do so at their own peril. Their tenure in office will be short.

Our politics is broken: hyper-partisanship runs rampant. Americans have never been more frustrated with government and the two-party system that dominates it. We have two warring factions: the insider Democrats and the insider Republicans — both of which are filled with partisans that generally care more about winning the next election than governing.

The political litmus test of the day is no longer a left-vs.-right continuum, but revolution versus status quo. Where is the elected official/candidate on the spectrum from feeling the current political system is broken vs. feeling that it works fine, but simply needs different players elected to office (more of “us” and less of “them”)?

What is the root cause of our gridlock? Our state and federal government won’t improve until the way we select, district and finance candidates changes. To that end, New Mexico Open Primaries Board members and volunteers have been working hard over the last two years to educate political leaders and voters about the need for important “process” reform.

With the help of some great sponsors (Rep. Jim Dines, Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, Rep. Jim Smith, Rep. Moe Maestas and Sen. John Sapien) we drafted and attempted to move such legislation through this 2017 session. Our two open primaries bills that would allow decline-to-state voters to vote in partisan primaries (which are paid for by tax dollars) made it through two legislative committees, one in the Senate and one in the House, but both bills are now dead.

Twenty-five states have open primaries. All of them are doing better than New Mexico. There is a direct connection between open primaries and the passage of other government improvement legislation and the state of states’ economies.

But guess what? None of these states got their open primaries bills or their independent redistricting commission bills through the legislatures. They all had ways to by-pass their legislatures. We do not. There is really something wrong when 90 percent of the public supports an independent ethics commission and 70 percent supports open primaries, but the Legislature won’t do the right thing and pass such legislation.

There appear to be only two solutions left:

  • File lawsuit after lawsuit since closed primaries violate the state anti-donation clause; requiring independent candidates to file 3-10 times the number of signatures to get on the ballot as major party candidates violates numerous equal protection clauses; or the greatest conflict of interest of all time, allowing incumbents to create safe districts for themselves decade after decade leading to few competitive elections in New Mexico.
  • Encourage and support independent candidates to take on these entrenched and out-of-touch incumbents in 2018 and 2020.

It is truly time for a revolution. It is time for we the people to reestablish our government of the people, by the people and for the people!

Bob Perls is the founder of New Mexico Open Primaries and a former New Mexico state representative.

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