New Mexico Counties Revolt Against Straight-Party Voting

Commissioners in several New Mexico counties have reportedly asked local clerks not to add the straight-ticket (straight-party) option that New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver ordered for the 2018 midterm elections.

The rebuke of Toulouse Oliver’s actions follows on the heels of a lawsuit challenging the legality of the decision — which may make the commissioners’ resolutions a mute point.

Straight-ticket voting — as the name implies — allows voters to choose a party’s entire slate of candidates by selecting a single option on the ballot. If voters still want to vote differently in another race they can, but the idea instilled into voters is select one option, and you’re done. No need to look further down the ballot — pick party, instead of candidates.

Advocates say it makes voting easy. Opponents say it puts third party and independent candidates at a severe disadvantage, and violates the will of the legislature, which repealed straight-ticket voting in 2001. This legislative action is at the heart of the debate in this case.

The actions by county commissioners may not matter much after the New Mexico Supreme Court rules on the issue, but it does intensify the debate over straight-ticket voting even more. The New Mexican reports that resolutions asking local clerks not to include a straight-ticket ballot option passed in the counties of Doña Ana, San Juan, Lea, Chaves, and Curry.

“It is so important we don’t become so loyal to our political parties we forget about our neighbors and our friends,” said Commissioner Benjamin L. Rawson, who sponsored the resolution in Doña Ana County.

Toulouse Oliver announced her intentions to implement straight-ticket voting a mere 70 days before the November election, and asserts that state law gives her unchecked authority to do it. She did not give the public the opportunity to weigh in on the matter or hold public hearings. Stay tuned for more on this story.

Photo Credit: Zack Frank / shutterstock.com