Independent voters plan lawsuit over closed primary elections

Updated: 05/30/2014 7:29 AM | Created: 05/29/2014 7:15 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

For decades independent voters have been complaining about being left out of New Mexico’s closed primary elections – now somebody is doing something about it.

Lawyers plan to slap election officials with a lawsuit in Bernalillo County District Court next Tuesday, June 3: Election Day. It won't stop the primary election, but they hope it will let more New Mexicans vote next time around.

You know how this thing works:  Republicans get to vote in the Republican primary, Democrats vote in the Democratic primary. Independents and minor party members don't get to vote in the primaries, even though their tax dollars will help to pick up the $3 million for next week’s election. David Crum is an independent voter who moved to New Mexico about 20 years ago.

“I went and tried to vote in a primary and was told, rather rudely, that I didn’t have the right to vote,” Crum said. “I was declined the right to vote and I haven’t voted in a primary here for the last, nearly 20 years.”

Crum’s lawyer, Edward Hollington, prepared Crum's lawsuit. It's all about the State Constitution.

“Article VII Section 1 says all qualified electors – that means all registered voters – shall be qualified to vote in all elections for public officers,” Hollington said. “It doesn’t except primary versus general. It says ALL elections.”

“I do feel cheated,” Crum said. “The people I’ve talked to who are also undeclared in terms of their party affiliation feel the same way.”

“We think it’s very clear that excluding persons who elect not to state a party preference from voting in the primary is unconstitutional,” Hollington said. “The Constitution guarantees, in our state of New Mexico Constitution Bill of Rights, that all elections are free and open. The term open is used, not closed.”

New Mexico has nearly a quarter of a million registered independent voters, the fastest growing segment of the voting population. They make up close to one fifth of the state’s registered voters.

Hollington and Crum hope to have a ruling from the State Supreme Court that will open up the closed primaries in time for the 2016 presidential election.

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