September 7, 2018

Straight party issue spurs Portales Libertarian to run for Secretary of State

Andy Lyman

Ginger Grider

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver’s decision to add straight-party ticket voting to November’s ballot has caused waves across the political party spectrum. But, besides uniting independents, Libertarians and Republicans in a state Supreme Court challenge, Toulouse Oliver’s proposed action has spurred one Portales woman to try and take over as the state’s election administrator.

Libertarian Ginger Grider said Toulouse Oliver’s decision to put  a straight-party ticket option on the ballot in November “greatly influenced” her decision to run for Secretary of State.

A straight-party option on the ballot would allow voters to mark a political party of their choice as an indication for votes further down the ballot. By marking a ballot for the Democratic Party, for example, every Democrat on the ballot receives a vote. New Mexico Democrats have long favored the process and Republicans have opposed it.

A straight-party voting option was removed from New Mexico ballots in 2012 by then-Secretary of State Dianna Duran, a Republican.

At the time, Duran cited a law from 2001 that removed language requiring a straight-party option. That legislation was signed into law by former Republican Governor and current Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Gary Johnson. Now it’s up to the state Supreme Court to decide if  the Secretary of State can unilaterally add a straight-party option back to the ballot. Albuquerque attorney and Libertarian Attorney General candidate Blair Dunn filed a petition on behalf of the Libertarian and Republican Parties of New Mexico and a Democratic write-in legislative candidate, asking the high court to weigh in on the matter. The Secretary of State’s office, through the Attorney General’s Office, is expected to file a written response today.

Besides criticizing Toulouse Oliver’s decision to implement the ballot change without a public hearing, the complaint argues that it’s the job of the Legislature, not the Secretary of State to make such changes.

Grider shares that concern with the petitioners.

“It was wrong and [Toulouse Oliver] doesn’t have the power to do what she did,” Grider said.

Grider said she sees the Secretary of State as an administrative position that has limited power in rule changes. She also hinted that Toulouse Oliver might be doing a favor for the Democratic Party. A majority of New Mexico voters are registered as Democrats and Grider says straight-party voting tips the scales even more in favor of that party.

But, Grider said, Republican outrage over straight-party voting would likely turn to acceptance if the majority of voters were Republican.

The Secretary of State race has featured a rotating cast of characters: Grider is the second Libertarian candidate since the state’s primary election in June. Former Democratic legislator turned Libertarian Sandra Jeff dropped out of the Secretary of State race in August. And former Republican 2nd Congressional candidate Gavin Clarkson replaces JoHanna Cox, who dropped out of the race in June.

Grider and her husband are also medical cannabis advocates who run the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Patients Advocate Alliance.

Grider, a former Republican, said she registered as a Libertarian two years ago when Johnson ran as the Libertarian nominee for president, but added that her husband has been a Libertarian for 25 years.