The Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced Wednesday that straight-party voting will be an option on the 2018 election ballot, a decision that has already received backlash from both sides.
Toulouse Oliver said she promised to implement straight-party, also called straight ticket, voting during her run for Secretary of State, and being on the verge of ballot printing deadline, she said there was no other time to announce the decision, because the office needed time to test sample ballots.
She said she believes it provides more options for voters and makes ballots more accessible and easier to cast, adding that straight-party voting is a choice.
The Deputy Secretary of State, John Blair, said the addition could help college students, parents and people who cannot stand for longer than 15 minutes, potentially cutting voting time in half.
The 2018 ballots will now feature three options for voting:
The straight-party voting option is done either by filling in the oval for Republican, Democrat or Libertarian on the top of the ballot. By doing so, a single vote is cast for all candidates of that party for each race. Any section that is not partisan, such as retention of judges and ballot questions, still require their own vote separate from the party oval on top.
Individually voting for each race will still be an option.
The third option is a crossover between the first two. A voter can fill in one of the three ovals on top of the ballot, and also vote for individual candidates of specific races. Meaning, even if the straight-party oval is filled in, a voter can choose a candidate of a different party for a race.
Secretary of State is one of the races on the ballot in November. Democrat Toulouse Oliver will be running against Republican candidate Gavin Clarkson.
Clarkson called the decision an attack on democracy and law, and is “likely illegal.”
“It is clear that Maggie Toulouse Oliver is trying to turn back the clock to an era of back rooms and party bosses,” he said. “Her transparent attempt to unfairly help her own re-election campaign and the rest of her party’s underperforming ticket must be stopped for the sake of public trust in our institutions,” adding that being a candidate and the Secretary of State is “increasingly looking like a conflict of interest.”
Politicians and citizens alike took to Twitter to express their views both for and against straight-party voting.
Steve Pearce, Republican candidate for Governor, released a statement on Twitter calling the decision an attack on democracy.
“The voters of New Mexico deserve free and fair elections, not blatantly partisan and corrupt public officials,” he wrote, adding that he calls on Democratic opponent Michelle Lujan Grisham to join him in denouncing straight-party voting. Grisham did not release a statement or give comment to the Daily Lobo at the time of publication.
One common response to the addition of straight-party voting is that it favors one party over the other, specifically Democrats — 45.9 percent of registered voters in the state are Democrats as of July 31.
State Senator Jacob Candelaria (D-Bernalillo), tweeted, “(I’m) not a fan of straight party voting. It’s not a (matter) of voter convenience; it’s a matter of partisan advantage in low information elections. Our country needs less vicious partisanship, not more.”
To this, Toulouse Oliver said in all the research she has done, and conversations she’s held with concerned citizens over the past months, no one has found data to support the claim.
The most aggressive response to the decision, the Republican Party of New Mexico released a statement saying they will file a lawsuit to block the addition of what they deem as a partisan maneuver.
“Straight ticket voting is an attempt to rig the system in favor of Democrats and turn New Mexico into a one-party state,” said the Republican Party of New Mexico Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi. He also said that “the hasty attempt to bring it back is likely illegal and we will take appropriate legal action.”
In response to the proposed lawsuit, Toulouse Oliver said she thinks it would be a waste of time and taxpayer money to challenge a policy that is meant to make voting easier.
Toulouse Oliver said it is a misconception is that straight-party voting assumes voters aren’t smart enough — she thinks it’s the opposite. She said voters are smart enough to know how they want to vote before seeing the ballot, adding that there are people who don’t want to make voting easier for people.
“As Secretary of State, I am committed to making it easier — not harder — for New Mexicans to vote,” she said.
Madison Spratto is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Madi_Spratto.