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Bill Would Reinstate Straight-Party Vote

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SANTA FE — Senate Democrats have introduced a bill to reinstate straight-party ticket voting in New Mexico.

Before the 2012 election, New Mexico voters could select every Democratic or Republican candidate on the ballot by checking a single box at the top of the page. But Secretary of State Dianna Duran eliminated the decades-old practice last year, saying it was not specifically allowed by state law.

“Without really any notice or any awareness, there was this change that was made that, I think, caused some confusion for individuals that went to the polls,” said Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 276 to restore the straight-party voting option.

“My purpose for wanting to bring this forward … it gives options for the voter regardless for which party affiliation they may have. It just gives options,” Morales said.

The chief sponsor of the bill is Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen.

Republicans, however, have called the practice out-of-date, and some say it gives the majority party Democrats an advantage.

Critics say straight-party voting allows voters to ignore the candidates on down-ballot races, such as state legislative or county commission districts.

“I don’t agree with it. I think you need to look at your ballot, look down your ballot, instead of hitting the top button and moving on,” said Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales.

Ingle said he has not heard complaints about added confusion at the polls in November because straight-party voting had been eliminated.

For the 2010 election — the last general election in which straight-party voting was available — straight-party votes occurred on 41 percent of the ballots cast statewide, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Just over half of those ballots —56 percent — were cast for the Democratic ticket.

Similar legislation to allow straight-party voting passed the Senate during the 2012 legislative session but died in the House before any action was taken.

Democrats last fall asked the courts to reject the secretary of state’s decision to eliminate straight-party voting, citing potential voter confusion and disenfranchisement.

The legal challenge is pending in federal court.

Ken Ortiz, chief of staff for the secretary of state, said Duran will not argue against the straight-party voting bill in the Legislature.

Duran “has never taken a position on the merits of straight party voting and does not do so now. That determination is left to the Legislature,” Ortiz said.
— This article appeared on page A3 of the Albuquerque Journal

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