In a move that many believe will disenfranchise third party, independent, and even Republican candidates in the majority-Democratic state of New Mexico, the NM Secretary of State, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, announced Wednesday that she will include a "straight party" voting option for the 2018 general election ballot.
Straight party, or "straight ticket" voting, which was discontinued in New Mexico in 2012 by then-Secretary of State Dianna Duran, is a ballot option that allows voters to simply pick a party at the top of the ballot, and automatically allots their vote to every candidate of that party in every race on the ballot.
Secretary Toulouse Oliver says:
"Like absentee voting and early voting, straight-party voting gives New Mexicans another option for casting their ballot. Voters can choose to use straight-party voting, if they decide it will work best for them. They can also choose to fill out the ballot for each individual race. The more options people have, the easier it is for more eligible voters to participate--and participation is the key to our democratic process."
But opponents of the straight party voting option say it disenfranchises independent candidates, because straight party voting offers voters two different ways to vote for major party candidates, compared with just one way to vote for independent candidates.
They say it rigs election results.
Rick Lass, who lives near Mimbres, calls the practice discriminatory. Lass used to live in Santa Fe, where he ran as a Green Party candidate for the Public Regulation Commission in 2008.
He believes the election outcome was affected by Democrats casting straight party ballots that accrued to his opponent's benefit, the former Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr.
Block won the general election with nearly 57 percent of the votes cast in the race. "It’s sort of a power play by the Democratic Party to get free votes for their candidates down the ballot," Lass told the Albuquerque Journal.
In New Mexico 45 percent of voters are registered Democrat, giving Democratic Party candidates a decisive advantage over Republican candidates with a straight party voting option in play, because a comparatively much smaller number of New Mexico voters (29 percent) are registered Republican.
That's why the Republican Party of New Mexico is planning to take legal action against the state department to attempt to block the change to general election ballots this fall.
State GOP Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi claims the change will directly benefit Toulouse Oliver's own re-election bid, and questions the sudden announcement of a ballot change so close to the fast approaching November election.
No doubt the change enshrines in policy an attitude that voters elect parties, but that's not the way American democracy was set up.
It was set up for voters to elect people.