COMMENTARY: I appreciate Ms Beyer’s recent commentary about the need to increase voter participation and to ease the burdens on independent and minor party candidates. While I agree that the state (that is, the taxpayers) should not be funding elections for private clubs, I don’t think that opening the major party primaries to all voters is the solution.
Why would a voter who chose not to join a party when she registered choose to vote in that party’s primary election? And more importantly, when it comes time for the general election — the one that really counts — New Mexicans will still be left with only two choices (actually, in many New Mexico elections, there is often only one name listed in November).
I think a better solution is to make ballot access for minor parties easier, thereby providing more choices for voters. In states like Colorado and Louisiana, all a party needs to do to have a ballot line is to have 1,000 registered members. They nominate candidates at a party convention and those candidates appear on the general election ballot.
In just about every other democracy, governments are elected using a form of proportional representation, with well over two parties listed on the ballot. In a recent New Zealand national election, two “minor” parties (New Zealand First and the Green Party) got over 6 percent of the vote, and now each hold 6 percent of the seats in Parliament. The following day in Germany six parties received the minimum number of votes to be elected to the national legislature (5 percent).
In both elections, over 76 percent of the citizens voted — a far cry more than the 30 percent who just voted in the Albuquerque mayoral election.
As an aside, the pundits were absolutely gleeful that we reached 30 percent turnout, the highest in 16 years. I am not so sure that having 7 out of 10 registered voters stay home is worthy of celebration.
In any case, I would point to the fact that this year there were eight candidates to choose from in Albuquerque, not the usual two or three — a likely cause of the higher than usual turnout.
People are tired of the two old parties and want more meaningful options. The solution to our democracy problem is not trying to funnel more voters into the broken two party primary system, it is to open the ballot to more parties at the general election. Easing ballot restrictions on minor parties and using a proportional representation system would accomplish those goals.
Rick Lass is a democracy advocate who longs for the day when he will live in the country his elementary school teachers taught him about. Agree with his opinion? Disagree? We welcome your views. Learn about submitting your own commentary here.