February 6, 2017

State Supreme Court upholds closed primary system

An attempt to open primaries failed after the state Supreme Court ruled against an Albuquerque resident.

David Crum, who is registered to vote but is not affiliated with any political party, sought to end the closed primary system, saying it violates a portion of the state constitution.

The State Supreme Court upheld a district court ruling dismissing the case, saying that the current restrictions requiring that primary voters be registered with a major political party at least 28 days before the primary and only allowing voters to vote in primaries of that party were “reasonably modest burdens which further the State’s interests in securing the purity of and efficiently administering primary elections.”

The Republican Party of New Mexico opposed Crum’s suit and said it would “unconstitutionally infringe on RPNM’s freedom of association,” according to the Supreme Court ruling. A state district court agreed and granted the party’s motion to dismiss. Crum appealed the dismissal, prompting the Supreme Court to review the case.

The Democratic Party of New Mexico did not participate in the case.

There is one bill to open primaries to unaffiliated voters, proposed by Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, and Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque. That bill would allow unaffiliated voters to vote in one of the major party primaries. It would not allow Republicans to vote in Democratic primaries or vice versa, which is allowed in some states.

A proposed constitutional amendment would change the primary system in New Mexico for congressional, legislative and most county positions. There would be one primary for each election, with all candidates from all parties on the same ballot. The top two candidates would move on to the general election.

Other states, like California and Louisiana, currently have these “jungle primaries” in place.

Both bills are currently scheduled to be heard in the House Local Government, Elections, Land Grants and Cultural Affairs Committee this Thursday.

NM Supreme Court Open Primaries by New Mexico Political Report on Scribd