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Commissioners to consider ‘straight- ticket’ voting issue

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[Note: This post has been updated to correct the day of the meeting.]

County officials are considering taking a stand about whether New Mexico voters in the November general elections should be allowed to vote a “straight ticket,” or checking one box that would select all the candidates from one party only.

The county released a meeting notice Saturday afternoon indicating that the Board of Commissioners will gather at 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Chaves County Administrative Center to consider a resolution regarding the issue. A copy of the proposed resolution was not available by press time.

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced Wednesday that she was putting the option of a straight-party vote on the ballot, an option that had been removed from state ballots in 2012.

“The more options people have, the easier it is for more eligible voters to participate — and participation is the key to our democratic process,” she said in a statement.

Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, denied that her decision had anything to with partisanship. But registered Democrats represent the largest bloc of statewide voters, 45.9 percent as of August 2018. The next largest group, Republicans, had 30.4 percent of registered voters in August.

On Friday, an emergency petition was filed with the New Mexico State Supreme Court to prohibit the straight-ticket option on the ballot. That petition was filed by the Republican Party of New Mexico, Unite New Mexico, the Libertarian Party of New Mexico, the Elect Liberty Political Action Committee and Heather Nordquist, a write-in Democratic candidate for a state House of Representative seat in the northern New Mexico area.

The petition states that Toulouse Oliver lacks legislative authority to make the decision and did not follow proper procedures, such as public hearings, to establish a regulatory authority for her action.

According to the petition, “virtually all political observers” think that a straight-ticket option benefits the Democratic Party and “harms independent, minor-party, and Republican candidates. As such, the Secretary’s actions are widely perceived as being motivated by partisan interests.”

Toulouse Oliver issued a response that the matter wasn’t a partisan issue but an “access issue.”

All five elected members of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners are Republicans.