Bill by Senate Democrats' leader moves forward
Straight-party voting could make a comeback in New Mexico.
A bill requiring that ballots allow voters to choose a qualified party’s slate of candidates advanced Wednesday in the state Senate.
Members of the Senate Rules Committee favored the bill on a 6-4 vote. All the Democrats supported it and all the Republicans opposed it — a straight-ticket vote of its own.
“I think it benefits the elderly,” Sanchez said.
Many older voters in his Valencia County district stood in line to vote last fall, then found that the straight-ticket option was no longer available to them, Sanchez said. Numerous elderly voters, he said, told him they were exhausted after the wait and left without filling out the bottom of the ballot.
Sanchez said lack of the straight-party option also may have slowed voting and contributed to hours-long waits in Rio Rancho.
“I don’t know. I didn’t go down there and pass out water,” Sanchez said in a dig at Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. She took water and pizza to a polling area that leans toward candidates of her party, exhorting people to stick it out until they voted.
By tradition, New Mexico ballots offered the option of straight-party voting from 1960 through 2010, said Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, a former Grant County clerk.
Secretary of State Dianna Duran, right, a Republican, decided not to include straight-party voting on last year’s general election ballot. The New Mexico Democratic Party has sued her over that decision.
Morales said that, contrary to perception or stereotype, straight-party voting was used by about the same percentage of Republicans and Democrats.
In New Mexico’s 2010 election, dominated by Republicans, 23 percent of Democrats and 18 percent of Republicans voted a straight ticket. Democrats held about a 3-2 registration advantage, so the percentage of voters using the straight-party method was similar, Morales said.
Republicans on the committee argued against allowing straight-party voting.
“It’s an archaic throwback,” said Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque.
Fourteen states allow for straight-party voting.
Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, said he did not like the idea of the presidential election having undue influence on his own race.
“There’s no way I can support this,” Pirtle said.
Sanchez’s bill says the ballot “shall provide the straight-party option for each qualified political party with candidates in two or more statewide contests.”
This would allow independents, Libertarians or the Green Party the possibility of straight-party voting, just as it would Republicans and Democrats.
Among those backing the bill were Common Cause New Mexico and Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the Bernalillo County clerk. They said providing options in voting would mean more people going to the polls.
A financial analysis by the state says Sanchez’s bill would have no effect on election costs. His bill goes next to the Judiciary Committee.