'Taxpayers in New Mexico pay for the primaries, not the parties, yet the parties claim it is a private nominating process' - former state Rep. Bob Perls
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
The push for open primary elections in New Mexico has taken a step forward.
State Reps. Moe Maestas, an Albuquerque Democrat, and Stephanie Garcia Richard, a Los Alamos Democrat, have introduced a proposed constitutional amendment that would open up primaries and allow anyone of any party to vote in any primary. The way it works now, only Democrats can vote in their party’s primaries, and the same thing for Republicans and voters in other parties.
Supporters of the proposed amendment, House Joint Resolution 12, say it would break the stranglehold that the two major parties have on the electoral process. If the Legislature approves the amendment—which is a long shot—it would go before voters in November.
“In any state-funded primary election, all registered qualified electors, regardless of party preference or affiliation, or lack thereof, who are otherwise qualified to vote for an office shall be allowed to vote or the candidate of their choice in a voter-nomination primary election process to determine which candidates for that office will appear on the general election ballot,” the resolution reads.
“Clarifying that everyone should be able to vote in all public elections will increase voter participation,” Maestas said. “Political parties are important participants, but they were never meant to be gatekeepers of the ballot.”
Former state Rep. Bob Perls, founder of New Mexico Open Primaries, said that in 1969 the Legislature passed a bill hat gaive the state’s two major parties control over when primaries occur and who can vote in them. “A court case last year was filed by our Board member, Ed Hollington, on behalf of independent David Crum, to challenge the constitutionality of excluding anyone from first round public elections. This constitutional amendment would settle the dispute,” Perls said.
Perls continued: “Taxpayers in New Mexico pay for the primaries, not the parties, yet the parties claim it is a private nominating process. You can’t have it both ways. Public elections must allow everyone to vote and private elections must be paid for by the private party it benefits.”
About half of the states allow independents to vote in primary elections, Perls said, adding that some states allow independents to choose between the Democratic or Republican primary. Other states allow any voter to vote in any primary, he said.
“Nebraska, California and Washington have non-partisan open primaries with the top two vote-getters going to the general election. This is what New Mexico Open Primaries would like to see happen in New Mexico so that all voters can vote in all elections and the parties can no longer control a public election,” Perls said.
Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press. Reach him at email@example.com
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