2019 is turning out to be one of the most electric years in New Mexico history for election reform. A swirl of bills are attempting to unlock one of the most closed primary voting systems in the USA.
New Mexico’s closed primary system means only registered voters of the three major parties can vote in the taxpayer funded primary elections. HB 93 and SB 418, the Open Primaries Bills, are attempting to change that. This would allow all taxpaying voters of New Mexico access to vote in the primary. The fact that we pay for primaries that the 25% of voters who are Independent and in other parties cannot vote is wrong and possibly unconstitutional.
HB93 was introduced on the second day of the session, now almost a month later, it passed its first committee, House Consumer and Public Affairs. As of 02/18, it passed the House Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee. Now, it must get through House Judiciary before making it to the floor. (Whew!) HB93 has not been scheduled in the next committee, House Judiciary. HB93 passed the first committee on a 3(D)-2(R)* party line vote with a notable asterisk. Republican Rep. Schmedes stated he would have voted yes if the bill contained an opt-out for parties to fund their own primary if they wanted to be closed. The same sentiment was expressed by Republican Rep. Nibert.
Rep. Schmedes and Nibert would be happy with SB 418, which is HB 93 WITH the opt-out provision. Introduced on 1/30/19, SB 418 has only one committee referral – Senate Rules. That’s the good news. The bad news is, it has yet to be scheduled. The stalling of these bills needs to end.
The committee chairs have the scheduling power. To help encourage those chairs to schedule. Please call: Rep. Gail Chasey – Chair, House Judiciary (505) 986-4411 and Sen. Linda Lopez, Chair, Senate Rules Committee (505) 986-4737.
One interesting side note: HJR6 is a bill which would have New Mexicans voting on whether a future system would require candidates for statewide offices to win by a majority not just a plurality. If this joint resolution passes and voters approve it, it could pave the way for Rank Choice Voting (RCV) in our elections. Rank Choice Voting could solve problems of our current system, including removing the need for costly runoff elections, and reducing the effects of negative campaigning. Combined with open primaries, New Mexico could catch up with the leading states for voter choice and freedom. HJR6 passed its first committee, House Government, Elections, and Indian Affairs, on February 11th. It awaits scheduling in House Judiciary.
Please call your elected Representatives and Senators to support these bills and look back here for more updates!