The legislative bill that would have given a primary ballot to decline-to-state (DTS) voters was tabled early in the 2022 regular session. House Speaker Brian Egolf explained that voters already have that right by using same-day registration. So, I am curious as to why parties will accept votes from same-day registrants, but not from DTS voters? And why they don’t tap into the 23% of tax-paying unaffiliated voters in New Mexico who help pay for the primaries they cannot vote in? The answer may explain why election reform is so difficult.
I disenfranchised myself from primary elections when I changed my affiliation to decline-to-state. In general elections, I have often voted for executive candidates from one party and legislative candidates from the other party. I could not do that at the primary level, so I went DTS as kind of a protest; my mother recited that adage about cutting off your nose. As politics devolved into party power-mongering, I was happy to maintain my unaffiliated status. Today, if you say what you are, you will get snarled at by half the room, whichever party you claim.
The 24% of voters who are DTS would be a great base for a major party, but how do you build a party from people who declined to join a party? Yet, they should be able to vote in primaries and we should give them a ballot with candidates of every party. A nonpartisan primary ballot for nonpartisan voters. I get giddy at the prospect. Some candidates would surely moderate their platforms to appeal to the new source of voters; conservatives who find Trumpism appalling and liberals who find “defund the police” a chant too far. Some of these more moderate candidates would make it to the general election.
If you don’t listen to the political parties, you will know America is really a middle-of-the-road landscape. But both parties tolerate extreme views at the same time they denigrate their own members who have even a tinge of moderation, independence or bipartisanship. One party censured members who took principled positions and pledges allegiance to an ex-president who meddles in elections for personal revenge. Good excuses to drop your party affiliation.
Bernie Sanders is a major leader in the Democratic Party and he’s not even a Democrat. So, what difference does a voter’s affiliation make? Parties battle for power in government, but they should not be able to manipulate elections to obtain that power. They do it in several ways now. If more voters become unaffiliated, primaries will be decided by fewer voters and that would be a serious risk for democracy. The unaffiliated could lead us back to better government.