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Guest Editorial: Straight-party voting is bad for our elections
We were disappointed, but not surprised to see Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver bring back straight-party voting for the 2018 election.
Straight-party voting, which allows voters to select all of the candidates from either party by marking just one box on the ballot, helps Democrats, who have a large advantage in total voter registration numbers. That is why it was discontinued by former Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who is a Republican.
And, we have no doubt that is why it is being revived by Toulouse Oliver, even though she claims otherwise. In a column that ran Thursday in the Sun-News, Toulouse Oliver says the fact that Duran and Republican Gov. Susana Martinez were both elected when straight-party voting was allowed is proof that it doesn’t help Democrats. That’s a bit like arguing that a single cold day disproves global warming.
Toulouse Oliver argues that the reason she is bringing back straight-party voting is to make it easier for voters.
“In fact, voters who choose to use the straight-party option will find their time in the voting booth cut in half, if not more,” she writes in her guest column.
It is certainly true that filling out one box is a lot faster than carefully considering each race on the ballot. Especially if voters ignore other races or issues on the ballot that don’t pit two candidates from opposing parties, such as judicial retention, as we are certain will happen far more often with straight-party voting.
But speed is not the most important consideration when establishing the process to select who will lead our county, state and nation for the next two years or more
For the most part, we applaud effort efforts to make voting faster and easier. Extended early voting and voter convenience centers throughout the county are two ways we have dramatically reduced the waiting period for voters and made the process much more user-friendly.
Innovations like the mail-in ballot used to conduct the most recent city election, which allowed voters to cast their ballots without leaving their homes, have greatly increased voter participation. We need more ideas like that.
But, while we think that voting should be easy and convenient, we don’t think it should be mindless. And that is essentially what you get with straight-party voting.
Instead of encouraging voters to learn about the candidates and where they stand on the issues, straight-party voting makes the false assumption that all Republicans and all Democrats are pretty much the same.
It encourages laziness. We appreciate that not all voters have the time or desire to educate themselves on every candidate in every race. But we think that requiring voters to at least pause and consider each race individually will lead to a better outcome.
Republicans have threatened a lawsuit to block the move. Our understanding has been that secretaries of state in New Mexico have the authority to decide whether straight-party voting is allowed. If that is incorrect, we look forward to a ruling by the court clarifying the issue.
If, in fact, Toulouse Oliver does have the authority to make the change, we would encourage her to reconsider.
Las Cruces Sun-News, Sept. 2