NM Constitution requires primaries to be open to all - Albuquerque Journal

NM Constitution requires primaries to be open to all

On June 3 voters went to the polls to vote for nominees for the general election – that is, if they were registered Democrats or Republicans.

The Secretary of State reports only one in five voters participated in this year’s primary election. These anemic numbers reflect that nearly a quarter-million registered voters could not vote in the primary. Why? Because they declined to identify as Republican or Democrat when they registered.

New Mexico is one of only 11 states that operate on a closed primary system, requiring voters to register as a Republican or Democrat to vote in the state’s primary election. This restriction is unconstitutional.

According to the Bureau of Elections, there are more than 240,000 voters who do not affiliate as a Democrat or Republican. These voters are categorized as “Declined to State” (or independent voters), relegated to an electoral limbo during the state’s primary election, silenced until November.

The number of voters who choose to remain unaligned with a political party when registering to vote continues to grow. Between 2000 and 2014, the number of self-identified independents grew by more than 130 percent.

Today independent voters comprise 19 percent of the state’s electorate, numbers in step with national trends. According to Gallup, in 2014 voters who self-identified as “independent” grew to represent 45 percent of the electorate, outnumbering voters who identify as either Democrat (30 percent) or Republican (23 percent).

On June 3 we filed a lawsuit in District Court aimed at ensuring independent voters have a voice in primary elections. We’re asking a judge to affirm the state constitution’s guarantee that every registered New Mexican has the right to vote in “all elections for public officers.” We are requesting this language be affirmed by the courts and that the state’s chief elections officer, Dianna Duran, allow independents a vote in the primary.

Several states have established semi-closed primary systems, allowing unaffiliated voters the opportunity to have their voices heard during primary elections. Oklahoma and Arizona have successfully run semi-closed primary elections for a number of years, ensuring all voters in their state can participate in the electoral process.

In a semi-closed primary election, unaffiliated voters check into their polling location and request one major party ballot. This process is highly organized and only allows voters access to one ballot, either Democrat or Republican.

Voting is one of our most fundamental rights, but the state of New Mexico continues to infringe on that right, election after election. Our state’s constitution asserts registered voters can only be disqualified “by reason of criminal conviction or felony.” However, New Mexico violates this language by denying independent voters access to the primary ballot box.

Primary elections are paid for by all New Mexico taxpayers. Since all taxpayers, regardless of their voter registration, are obliged to foot the bill for all elections, all taxpayers who are registered to vote should have the right to vote in all elections.

According to a recent article in the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico’s 2014 primary election cost the taxpayers more than $3 million – a high price tag for the quarter-million voters banned from the full election process.

It’s time to move toward an election process that’s inclusive of disenfranchised voters, allowing candidates the opportunity to be held accountable by a greater number of individuals.

Some insiders within the major parties oppose a more inclusive system, arguing that allowing unaffiliated voters access to their ballots would violate their right of association. We believe that a political party’s right of association does not trump an individual’s right to vote for public officials.

An inclusive election system is something that every voter can support and a goal the state should strive toward. We hope that the courts and the secretary of state will affirm our voting rights in time for the 2016 primary election.

Edward Hollington filed suit on behalf of David Crum, a Declined To State registered voter who was turned away from his primary election voting location on May 21.


Home » Opinion » Guest Columns » NM Constitution requires primaries to be open to all

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

Outsiders' 'solutions' to wildfires open door to privatizing lands
From the newspaper
Northern New Mexico is in the ... Northern New Mexico is in the midst of a horrific tragedy at a scale we have not seen before with th ...
We must tend, not neglect, forests
From the newspaper
Government failed as responsible steward in ... Government failed as responsible steward in name of 'preservation'
Neglected rural communities unprepared for disaster
From the newspaper
The Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire is ... The Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire is a looking glass into the lack of preparedness for disasters in ...
Charter schools show education and politics can work in ...
From the newspaper
In a world of constant disagreement, ... In a world of constant disagreement, most of us can agree that division in our country is at a fever ...
Tips for better oral health in the age of ...
From the newspaper
While many people are likely aware ... While many people are likely aware of the most common risk factors associated with complications fro ...
ABQ can make farmers markets dynamic pipelines for small ...
From the newspaper
With spring unfolding, farmers markets are ... With spring unfolding, farmers markets are reopening in Albuquerque, and it's cause for celebr ...
Colón doesn't understand AG's role
From the newspaper
Lifelong prosecutor Torrez is better suited ... Lifelong prosecutor Torrez is better suited for the job
Crime crisis can't wait until the next legislative session
From the newspaper
As state representatives, the issue our ... As state representatives, the issue our constituents ask us about the most is what we are doing to f ...
Drop lies and hate, focus on solutions for better ...
From the newspaper
As the news broke last weekend ... As the news broke last weekend of a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, we joined the nation in mour ...