NM Democrats upset over elimination of straight-party voting
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One day after hearing that Secretary of State Dianna Duran has decided to get rid of straight-party voting in the upcoming November elections, the reaction in the Roundhouse was predictable as Democrats opposed the ruling while Republicans approved it.
In straight-ticket voting, voters simply select “Democrat” or “Republican” and every candidate in the appropriate party receives a vote — from the highest office in the land to the lowest local official.
Since Democrats outnumber Republicans in New Mexico, some say straight-party ballots help Democrats more than the GOP. “That’s probably true,” Republican Taylor said Monday (June 18) although the Associated Press story announcing the move pointed out that New Mexico Democratic and Republican voters tend to vote the straight-party ticket at roughly the same rate (23 percent for Democrats, 18 percent for Republicans in the 2010 elections).
“We disenfranchise people by not allowing a straight-party vote,” Varela said. “And to have the Secretary of State say she has the authority to do that is not right.”
Duran is the first Republican elected Secretary of State in 80 years and a spokesman for Duran said her office will not allow straight-party voting because there is no provision in state law specifically authorizing it.
“Her job is to follow the law,” AP quoted Ken Ortiz of the SOS’s office.
The Democratic Party of New Mexico says it’s considering filing a lawsuit to put the straight-party ticket back on the ballot.
“Personally, I think people should go through the ballot individually,” Rep. Don Bratton (R-Lea County) said Monday. “You need to look at the merits of each candidate in each race.”
New Mexico is one of a growing number of states looking to ban straight-party voting. Just 13 states allow the practice in all elections and since the mid-1990s six states have eliminated it.
Even in Texas, where Republican voters far outnumber Democrats, GOP lawmakers are lobbying to get rid of straight-party voting. “Candidates will have to stand on their own merits and not just rely on party brand,” the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News wrote in 2010. “In other words, they will have to think for themselves and campaign that way.”
And in Wisconsin, Republican lawmakers led the charge ending straight-party voting even though GOP voters there used it more often than Democrats in the 2010 elections.
Third-party advocates across the country, ranging from the Green Party to the Libertarian Party, have also called for eliminating straight-party voting that was described by one Green Party candidate in Wisconsin as “a product of one of the enduring problems of our political system, which is that it perpetuates and protects itself against demands for reform.”
With that in mind, the elimination of a straight-party ballot in New Mexico this fall could help boost the votes for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, who was a two-term governor in the state from 1994-2002. A recent poll has shown Johnson scoring at 12 percent in New Mexico against President Obama and likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Posted under Capitol Report.
Tags: Associated Press, Dallas Morning News, Democratic Party of New Mexico, Dianna Duran, Don Bratton, Gary Johnson, Green Party, Libertarian Party, Luciano "Lucky" Varela, New Mexico Secretary of State Office, Tom Taylor