It’s rare in New Mexico when Democrats and Republicans see eye-to-eye on an issue. So it’s refreshing to see Republican Gov. Susana Martinez support a reasonable plan put forth by two Democrats, Sen. Bill O’Neill and Rep. Emily Kane, that would open up party primaries to independent voters. O’Neill and Kane plan to introduce legislation in January that would allow voters who decline to state a party affiliation to choose whether to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary, but not in both. Members of a party could not vote in the other party’s primary, which had been a sticking point for many partisans. The goal is to increase voter participation – only about 20 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the June primary – and to attract young voters who increasingly don’t want to affiliate with either party.
More than one in five voters in New Mexico declined to state a party when registering to vote. About 38 percent of registered voters ages 18 to 24 fall into that category. And because many candidates in New Mexico face no opposition beyond the primary, the winner is often declared before independents get a chance in weigh in.
In the past both parties have opposed allowing primary voting across party lines over concerns it would dilute party participation and fears that operatives of the opposite party could knock out their strong primary candidates before the general election.