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Editorial: Online registration a good step one for voters

Consider it a glass-is-kind-of-half-full situation.

While it is a welcome development that New Mexicans can now register to vote online, they still have to register with a major political party to be eligible to cast a ballot in a primary election.

So as the Land of Enchantment takes its voter registration into the digital age (while preserving paper forms for those who prefer or need them), it continues to disenfranchise almost a quarter of a million of its registered voters – many of them age 18 to 24 – who Decline To State rather than pledge allegiance to a party ideology.

That silences individual voices while protecting the political party machines that encourage candidates to pander to their extreme bases. And because many primary candidates face no general election opposition, it means roughly a quarter of a million New Mexicans never get to weigh in on who will run their city, county and state governments.

The Journal has long supported a modified open primary system that would require independent voters to pick one or the other major political party in a primary, allowing them to join the great exercise in Democracy while preventing the shenanigans a party-jumping free-for-all could inspire.

Last legislative session Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, proposed such a measured reform.

And they watched it die for lack of action in the Senate Rules Committee.

So kudos to legislators and Gov. Susana Martinez for making online voter registration law and to new Secretary of State Brad Winter and his office for getting the system literally online a year ahead of schedule.

But more than one in five voters were disenfranchised on primary election days before registration went digital. In the first six days the system has been live, 667 new voters have registered, including 103 DTSs. Now that New Mexicans can register as easily as tweeting, it’s clear registration will increase.

But until the Legislature opens state primaries, a key segment of voters can’t participate.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.