A party-line split decided the issue. Twenty-four Senate Democrats supported the bill and all 17 Republicans opposed it.
New Mexico ballots had offered the option of straight-party voting since the 1960s, said Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, a sponsor of the bill. This occurred even though the Legislature in 1999 repealed laws that required a straight-party voting option.
Breaking from tradition, Secretary of State Dianna Duran, a Republican, declined to include straight-party voting on last year's general election ballot. The state Democratic Party has sued Duran over her decision.
Morales said providing options to the electorate was at the heart of his bill to allow for straight-party voting.
"Unfortunately this last election that option was taken away," Morales said.
Sen. John Ryan, R-Albuquerque, said he was concerned that the bill would hurt third-party candidates.
Ryan also said straight-tickets represented old-fashioned politicking.
"This bill would send us back to an era that's passed us by," he said.
Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said he had never voted a straight ticket. He said he was worried that those who do might not bother to vote on bond issues or proposed constitutional amendments at the bottom of the ballot.
Morales during a previous hearing rebutted the suggestion that straight-party voting was a device beneficial to Democrats.
In the 2010 election, dominated by Republicans, 23 percent of Democrats and 18 percent of Republicans voted a straight ticket. Democrats held about a 3-2 registration advantage, so the breakdown of voters using the straight-party method was similar, Morales said.
As for third-party candidates being shut out, that would not necessarily be true. The bill allows a straight-party option for each qualified political party with candidates in two or more statewide races.
Morales' proposal, Senate Bill 276, advances to the House of Representatives. If it clears the House, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez still could veto it.
Fourteen states allow for straight-party voting.