Talon News - Good Local News

OPEN PRIMARIES

 

February 10, 2017



Partisan primaries are designed to advance the interests of political parties. They do nothing to advance the quality of our democracy. To the contrary, they inhibit the participation of candidates who do not have party backing. This type of primary reduces turnout while open primaries increase participation.

Primaries are paid for by all taxpayers, but serve the narrow interests of the major parties. They are the main vehicle that party loyalists have used to move those parties away from the mainstream. The polarization this creates does not reflect the views of most of the electorate. In fact, it is the main reason our politics have devolved into gridlock. No wonder voters are increasingly alienated and our elected officials are more polarized.

Parties are not fundamental to American democracy – the Founding Fathers detested them. The Constitution they wrote (like the NM Constitution) does not mention parties. Our State Constitution stipulates that all qualified electors shall be able to vote in all public elections, but in 1969 the legislature delegated the right to decide who can vote in primaries to the parties. Parties have no business running what is fundamentally a public function -- managing elections. Public dollars demand public elections.

Gerrymandering and unfair ballot access contribute a great deal to limiting participation, but closed primaries incentivize politicians to campaign only to their base. The fringe talks to itself and elects politicians who pretend to represent everybody.

New Mexico has one of the most restrictive voter access requirements in the nation with a completely closed primary system combined with a requirement to register 28 days before the election. The pace of major reforms in other jurisdictions is increasing with half of the States having open primaries.

Independent voters represent an ever-increasing portion of the electorate – 45 percent of the electorate is not aligned with a party -- more than either major party can claim. Many people believe special interest money has corrupted the main political parties. This non-affiliation trend will accelerate as younger citizens register – less than half of millennials choose to affiliate with a party.

We must institute a system that rewards dialogue, coalition-building and problem solving, one that encourages more people to participate both as candidates and as voters. We deserve a democracy that rewards candidates who appeal to the mainstream rather than the fringes. There is objective proof that open primaries do just that.

New Mexico Open Primaries (NMOP) is a movement of diverse New Mexicans who believe in a simple, yet radical idea: no New Mexican should be required to join a political party to fully and fairly exercise their right to vote.

 

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