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Media Starting to Report Realities of Partisan Primary Systems

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

A local news station in New Mexico, KOB 4, recently aired a story about how independent voters in the state are excluded from the upcoming primaries, which will be held on June 3. The inability of independent voters (and all voters) to have full and meaningful participation in the election process has long been ignored by most media outlets, but as the number of independent voters rise, it is getting harder for traditional media outlets to overlook.

"Don't look now, but there's an election sneaking up on us – an election in which thousands of New Mexicans won't be allowed to vote," Stuart Dyson reports, "even though they're registered and their tax dollars are helping to pay for the entire thing."

Thousands may be underselling it a bit.

As of March 31, 2014, voters who declined to state party affiliation was 240,213. From this number, it is hard to determine just how many are independent voters, members of a third party, or just didn't want to state their affiliation. However, added to the number of voters registered "Other," there were a total of 279,007 voters not registered with either major party -- 21.9 percent of the electorate.

Most of these voters registered the way they did for a reason. However, none of these voters will be able to participate in the June primary elections. New Mexico has closed primaries, which means only registered party members can participate. The parties can choose to conduct semi-closed primaries if they want, allowing independent and third party voters a little extra time to change their voter registration. To date, however, the primaries for both major parties are closed.

Either way, closed and semi-closed primaries still deny voters not affiliated with the Republican or Democratic parties complete and meaningful participation in the public election process even though they contribute to the funding of these elections. According to the KOB 4 report, the 2014 primary elections are going to cost $3.1 million. It is a steep price to pay when one-fifth of the voting population cannot participate and only 28 percent of voters eligible to participate cast a ballot in the primaries 4 years ago.

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