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N.M. Democrats, GOP urged to adopt open primaries

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SANTA FE (AP) — An independent think tank wants New Mexico’s political parties to adopt rules allowing unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections.

Think New Mexico Executive Director Fred Nathan made the request in a letter Wednesday to leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties.

Nathan contends election turnout will increase if independent voters, who are unaffiliated with a political party, can cast ballots in 2014 primary contests. About 18 percent of the state’s registered voters are independents, including Nathan.

He said open primaries also will “decrease the polarization of candidates in both parties” because more voters will have a voice in selecting candidates who are the party nominees.

“As you know, many New Mexico elections are essentially decided during the primary, so opening the primaries to more voters will ultimately result in elected officials who represent the perspectives of more of their constituents,” Nathan wrote.

GOP Chairman John Billingsley said the request will be reviewed but “the idea of open primaries allows for outside groups to organize and disrupt the party’s primary process.”

“As a party, we seek to keep primaries as they are in order to ensure that the best possible Republican candidates are put forth for each race,” Billingsley said in a statement.

Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Forrester said the proposal will be considered over the next year. It would need to gain the support of a party committee and then be submitted for possible approval at a state convention next spring.

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