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Independents should be allowed primary votes

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Independent voters are coming together in New Mexico to play a role in the mid-term elections, but it’s not the role we are usually cast in by the media as “swing voters.” Instead, on primary day June 3 we’ll be working to be visible at a time when we are most invisible.

Primary elections are a critical juncture in the democratic process. They are often the most competitive. But in New Mexico, independents are not allowed to participate. It is one of 18 states in the country to do so. Other states have put in place restrictions forcing independents to join a party in order to receive a ballot.

As taxpayers, independents help pay for the primaries, which only benefits those members of the two major political parties and in which voter turn out is usually low. (An issue to consider is that if the two political parties ran and paid for their own elections and conducted them by mail, the turnout might be higher.)

A recent Gallup poll shows 42 percent of Americans identify as independent (19 percent in New Mexico and over 25 percent in Bernalillo County), making the issue all the more urgent as a large and growing segment of the electorate is marginalized in its voting powers by partisan primary systems.

Independents support alternative approaches to the current system of private party primaries. In a Top Two nonpartisan primary, all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, are on a single ballot and all voters vote on this ballot. The top two vote-getters go on to the general election. In California such a system has resulted in more competitive elections, less legislative gridlock and candidates being more attentive to their entire constituent base.

On primary day, June 3, independents will be making ourselves seen and heard in new ways. A change is clearly needed – so that the voices of millions of independent voters who do not now have full voting rights can be heard. We hope to lead the way to a government less hampered by partisanship and more able to move ahead with the business of the country.

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