April 13, 2016

Yes, some 17-year olds will be able to vote in primary

Photo via Flickr by Erik (HASH) Hersman

The Secretary of State’s office told county clerks that some 17-year olds will be able to vote in the upcoming primary elections.

Photo via Flickr by Erik (HASH) Hersman

Photo via Flickr by Erik (HASH) Hersman

The Secretary of State’s office sent an email to county clerks last week informing them of the new procedure for these voters. The only 17-year olds who will be eligible to vote in the primaries are those who will turn 18 before the November 8 general elections.

The Secretary of State said the decision came “after consultation with the Attorney General.”

NMPolitics.net first reported on the email.

Last month, NM Political Report reported that the Secretary of State’s office would not say if 17-year olds would be able to vote in the primary even as county clerks prepared for the new registrants. Instead, a spokesman said the office was “exploring the legal options to assure the law is implemented appropriately.”

Viki Harrison of Common Cause New Mexico said at the time that her organization was readying campaigns to register the young voters and on Wednesday hailed the Secretary of State’s decision.

“We knew the Secretary of State and County Clerks could easily get a system in place to comply with the new law, and they did,” Harrison told NM Political Report in a statement. “The systematic changes needed are few, yet the benefits to the 17 year olds who will be 18 by the general election are many.

“Now we expect both the Clerks and the Secretary of State to get the word out and make sure those new voters know about the changes in law and are ready to participate,” she continued.

“This is exciting news for young people in New Mexico. It’s only fair that young voters have a voice in who they will see on the ballot for the general election in November,” Democratic Party of New Mexico Vice-Chair Juan Sanchez III, the youngest state party leader in the country, said in a statement.

Harrison also noted that New Mexico has a closed primary system, which means only those who are registered as Democrats can participate in the Democratic primary and only registered Republicans can participate in the Republican primary.

No independents can cast ballots in the June primaries.

Voters also must register before May 10 to vote in the June primaries.

Since the law does not go into effect until May 18, the 17-year olds will be able to vote starting on that date; absentee voting for the primary begins on May 10.

The confusion over the law’s effective date came because the bill has no set effective date. The state constitution says that laws go into effect 90 days after the adjournment of the session in which the bill passed, unless otherwise noted.

This can be waived if a bill passes with the “emergency clause” which requires a two-thirds vote on the legislation from each chamber. The sponsor, Rep. Jeff Steinborn, sought the emergency cause but the bill failed to reach the two-thirds threshold.

Update: Added quote from Democratic Party of New Mexico official.

SoS says some 17 year olds can vote in primary