Independent voter sues NM for open primaries

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Turnout was low for the primary election last night in part because nearly a quarter million independent voters were shut out, but a lawsuit could soon change that.

New Mexico law says you have to have an assigned party to vote in the primary.

Now, one independent voter is suing the state claiming he and other independents or unaffiliated voters should be able to pick a party and vote in the primary on the day of the election. He says the Constitution also backs their argument.

While nearly 200,000 New Mexicans voted in the primary election Tuesday, David Crum was one of the many independent voters that didn’t get to take part the civic duty.

“It’s absolutely not fair,” said Crum.

Crum is now suing the state because of it.

“All we’re asking with this lawsuit is that voters in New Mexico and there’s almost 250,000 of them that are undeclared, but are otherwise eligible to vote, be allowed to cast a vote in a primary,” said Crum.

Crum and his attorney filed the lawsuit in Albuquerque District Court this week, challenging New Mexico’s closed primary law.

Currently, New Mexico’s state elections only let Republicans and Democrats vote for their own party during the primary. It means independents, like Crum, can’t vote unless they change their party affiliation weeks ahead of the election.

“And so I think for me and for other people, it’s just such an important process to be able to be involved in without having the associate with either political party,” said Crum.

Crum is asking for the right to be able to pick a party on the day of the primary and vote solely on their ballot.

Crum’s attorney also thinks the New Mexico state Constitution is on their side, pointing to two Constitutional provisions. One states “all elections shall be free and open.” The other allows all eligible voters to vote in all elections for public office.

“I’m not sure that you can come to any other conclusion that excluding voters from their constitutional right needs to challenged and this is what we’re doing,” said Hollington.

Hollington says he’s hopeful they’ll be able to get primaries open in New Mexico by June 2016. He says he’s also hoping the issue will go in front of the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Secretary of State Dianna Duran and Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver are named in the lawsuit. KRQE News 13 did not hear back from Duran’s office Wednesday, but a spokeswoman for Toulouse Oliver said she supports an open election process.

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