Saturday several New Mexico Open Elections Board members presented an open primaries resolution to the governing body of the state Democratic Party in Gallup, the State Central Committee. A big thank you to Greg Sonnenfeld, Kathleen Burke, Heather Nordquist, Gus Pedrotty and Bob Perls.
Our resolution did not pass, but it was very close – within 15 votes out of 400 or so votes. This is tremendous progress given that four years ago very few partisans on either side of the aisle supported open primaries. To be clear, we were proposing a semi-open primaries bill that simply allowed DTS (independents) to vote in a major party primary. Our approach would preclude cross-voting. If you know Republican supporters of open primaries who would do the same with the state Republican Party, please let us know.
You might recall that our semi-open primaries bill, HB 93, during the last legislative session made it through two House committees, but was killed in the third, House Judiciary. Again, we are making progress. We currently are working with a dozen legislators to try to get open primaries on the Governor’s call.
We continue to be the only non-profit in New Mexico focused on election reform. We need your help and support. A big thank you to NMOE board member Diane Albert who, on Sunday, committed to fund our non-profit with an ongoing gift of $500 per month. Can you help us out with an ongoing monthly donation of $10 per month?
We are all volunteer working to expand voting rights to all!
Board of Directors,
New Mexico Open Elections
Lots going on behind the scenes to keep the progress going with open primaries in New Mexico. Our Board is working with Representative Daymon Ely and Representative Bill Pratt to get open primaries on the Governor’s call for the short legislative session in 2020. General bills can’t be introduced in the short session without one.
CALL TO ACTION: Please call the Governor’s Office asking them to put Open Primaries on the Governor’s call. Call 505-476-2200 and ask them to put HB 93 from the 2019 session on the call.
We have at least a dozen legislators who are signing a letter to her and are setting up a meeting with the Governor to ask for “the call”.
We will have some exciting news to announce next month regarding our new organization.
Thank you for your ongoing support.
Many voters in the 2018 midterm election seemed to make decisions based more out of anger and less on hope.
Is there hope for a well-functioning democracy? We at New Mexico Open Primaries think so. The structure of our campaign and election system directly impacts how many citizens actually vote and how many voices our politicians actually represent.
Open primaries, ranked choice voting, free and fair ballot access, a non-partisan redistricting commission, automatic voter registration, mail-in voting and direct national vote are all reforms that we must work for in the next few years.
New Mexico Open Primaries Board believes that without these reforms there will continue to be grid-lock, hyper-partisanship, voter disengagement and little progress in our state and Nation.
This election cycle, New Mexico Open Primaries Board endorsed independents, Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians who support the kinds of electoral reforms that we need to create competitive elections and greater accountability in our politicians. Many of our endorsed candidates won, though we are sad that State Rep. Jim Dines lost. Jim was respected by adversaries and friends alike and set the standard for honest and ethical behavior in the legislature. We hope State Rep.-Elect Abbas Akhil does the same.
In New Mexico we have a new group of legislators who we believe will want to see a new way of operating. We hope that fresh thinking will encourage our new legislators to support New Mexico Open Primaries’ mission and goals to work towards a healthier campaign and election structure where there is greater voter participation and then greater coalition building among elected officials.
Two takeaways for you today:
1) Please be in touch if you would like to work with us during this upcoming legislative session. We expect success this time.
2) Watch for a major announcement today from our parent organization, Open Primaries, regarding a huge lawsuit to blow open closed primaries here in New Mexico. We hope we will be successful this time.
We have worked hard to get many parties together to run this lawsuit with sufficient funding and expertise.
Bob Perls, Founder and President
New Mexico Open Primaries
By Bob Perls
So many myths about the two-party system and so little time to debunk them. But let’s try because every election we keep doing the same thing and we get the same outcome-members from two warring factions who can’t solve New Mexico’s problems.
Myth #1: People are apathetic and that is why they don’t vote. WRONG. People are rational creatures and rightly have surmised that their vote does not matter lately because the elections are rigged. How? Most politicians are elected with little to no competition. New Mexico has the greatest number of “free riders” of any state-incumbents with no general election opposition. This year, for example, 34 districts will be uncontested by one of the two major parties. If a voter has no choice, why should they bother to vote?
Myth #2: If we could only elect more of us and less of them, everything would be great. WRONG. We live in a diverse state and a diverse country. This idea that the other side is wrong, evil, pig-headed, stupid or whatever is what has gotten us into this mess. When you talk to the “others” you will find you agree on 80 percent of the important issues. We need an election system that allows politicians to find that common ground, that forces them to talk with all voters of every stripe and rewards voters for showing up by giving them a system full of elected officials that work together and problem solve. Open primaries, ranked choice voting, non-partisan redistricting commissions, free and fair ballot access for independent candidates and other political reforms must be passed in New Mexico so we stop fighting with each other and start working together. We should be in last place no more.
Myth #3: We can’t change the system. WRONG. We control the system, but if behave in a crazy way by voting for the same people and the same parties over and over again, then truly nothing will change. We change the system by supporting credible, thoughtful candidates who are committed to the people and not the political parties. 25 percent of New Mexicans do not belong to a major political party. 45 percent of Americans don’t. 60 percent of millenials are registering as independents. In short, we have the troops and need to start a non-violent revolution!
Myth #4: We can’t elect a non-partisan, independent candidate to office in New Mexico. WRONG. We just launched Unite New Mexico and we already have two independent candidates for the State House that stand a great chance of winning this November. Other independent or “declined-to-state” voters have until the end of June to file for offices up and down the ballot for the election this November. Competition is the cornerstone of our economy because it ensures choice. So, why do we put up with no or little choice at the ballot box? If independent candidates run against every incumbent who had a free ride in the general election this November and in 2020, it would change the face of politics in New Mexico, but most importantly, it would increase voter turnout because people show up when there are choices.
Unite New Mexico aims to represent non-partisan, non-aligned, independent voters and candidates in New Mexico. Our candidates, if elected, will advocate for all people in the state legislature. Unite New Mexico exists to level the playing field for independents who want to run for office. And, together, we will set an example of civil discourse in politics because the enemy is not the other party or those with no party. The enemy is apathy and frustration that lead to the insanity of doing the same thing, the same way and continually hoping the outcome is different. We are offering a different way. Join us for the launch of Unite New Mexico in Santa Fe and Albuquerque on May 24. See our website for details.
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"Morning Joe" is in mourning. The deceased is the Republican Party of balanced budgets and international restraint.
MSNBC host and former Congressman Joe Scarborough announced last week that he was leaving the Republican Party. In an impassioned piece for The Washington Post, Scarborough cited Donald Trump’s actions and Republican Party leadership’s silence as the basis of his decision:
“The wreckage visited of this man will break the Republican Party into pieces — and lead to the election of independent thinkers no longer tethered to the tired dogmas of the polarized past. When that day mercifully arrives, the two-party duopoly that has strangled American politics for almost two centuries will finally come to an end. And Washington just may begin to work again.”
Welcome to the (anti-) party, Scarborough! You are joining the roughly 45 percent of Americans who are abandoning the Democratic and Republican Parties or never joined them in the first place. Not only are our ranks growing, but political scientists and pollsters are finally acknowledging that independents are not apathetic fence-sitters but engaged Americans concerned about how the parties and partisanship are ruining our country.
But if I’ve learned anything about American politics in my 20 years as an independent activist and advocate for electoral reform, it’s that nothing automatically leads to anything. There are no straight lines in politics. Change is not inevitable. The parties work hard to muffle the impact of this exodus towards independence. Independent voters might comprise 45 percent of the country, but the parties still make the rules. And here’s rule No. 1: Independent voters must accept that they are second-class citizens in our democracy.
Independent voters in many states cannot register to vote as independents — they must choose from derogatory voter registration language like “unenrolled” or “decline to state.” Independent voters are not allowed to serve as poll workers in states like New York — it’s a job only Democrats and Republicans can apply for. Independent candidates are locked out of participating in the presidential debates and have to gather many more signatures than party candidates to have their names appear on the ballot.
Independents in dozens of states pay taxes for primary elections that they are barred from. The two forms of gerrymandering that dominate our country — partisan gerrymandering and bi-partisan gerrymandering — share a common commitment to protecting the parties at the expense of the voters, especially independents. The Federal Election Commission is comprised of three Democrats and three Republicans — which guarantees deadlock — instead of two Democrats, two Republicans, and two independents, which the current statute allows for and would produce functional oversight of the electoral process. Local and state boards of elections are run by Democratic and Republican appointees.
We do need to elect independent thinkers no longer tethered to tired dogmas, as Scarborough suggests. That is true. And we need to free independent voters from the iron maiden of partisan election laws and practices that keep them from fully participating.
Implementing open primaries is where I start. It’s simple and popular. Let all voters vote in all elections. Don’t make party membership a condition for participation. Don’t let the parties — private, non-government organizations — decide who can and cannot vote in publicly funded elections. If we can break down this barrier, the American people will be better positioned to take on the dozens of other ways the parties hold on to old dogmas and insulate themselves from independent voices, from change and from progress.
My hope is that Scarborough takes his independence seriously and uses his location in the media to publicize the growing chorus of voices calling for the full enfranchisement of independent voters. While just five years ago the conversation about reform was limited to money in politics, there is a surge of new leaders and organizations who recognize that the party control of the process itself must be disrupted. There are hundreds of articulate, passionate, committed and accomplished independent leaders and reformers working around the clock to reform our political system. The country needs more opportunities to hear from them!
Don’t mourn Joe. Join the fight to unleash the power of independents.
John Opdycke is president of Open Primaries, a national election-reform group.
This article was written by Open Primaries (National) Board Member Dr. Jessie Fields for the Daily Caller
The fight for voting rights for African Americans produced a historic outcome, the Voting Rights Act, but party politics continues to cut short the potential of the movement to fully empower the African American community and to sustain an ongoing process involving the American people.
The hard fought battles and sacrifices, the marches and protests of the nonviolent civil rights movement of the mid twentieth century has enshrined in the American soul the doctrine of equal voting rights, but the vision of the movement that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave voice to did not end in the passage of legislation. He often spoke of the central role of voting rights in addressing racial segregation, “Our whole campaign in Alabama has been centered around the right to vote. In focusing the attention of the nation and the world today on the flagrant denial of the right to vote, we are exposing the very origin, the root cause, of racial segregation in the Southland.”
The Voting Rights Act which the movement in Selma produced was a critical achievement, extending the franchise to many more blacks and other minorities and resulting in more people of color getting elected to public office. But black voters were quickly consolidated into the Democratic Party and thus into a two party system that divided the American people for partisan political gain. The Democratic Party came to dominate the black community.
That the black community would become a foregone conclusion as the constituency of any political party was not the mission of those who marched for voting rights. Closed party primaries and partisan redistricting continue to segregate black communities and today many African Americans feel taken for granted by the Democratic Party and rejected by the Republican Party. The 2016 presidential election starkly demonstrated the effects of this reality. Two million independent black voters were excluded from voting in the presidential primary and over one million African American voters did not participate in the general election because they felt that given the choices, their vote could not be meaningful.
In a New York Times article 11 days before the successful completion of the Selma to Montgomery march Dr. King wrote, “When the full power of the ballot is available to my people, it will not be exercised merely to advance our cause alone. We have learned in the course of our freedom struggle that the needs of twenty million Negroes are not truly separable from those of the nearly two hundred million whites and Negroes in America”.
This view, that the vote for African Americans was to be a tool for the political empowerment of the black community and for the growth and development of the entire country is a view not focused on who gets elected or which party wins but on fulfilling the needs and aspirations of ordinary people. And it was moving and historic, a developmental moment when people all over the country from all walks of life responded to Dr. King’s call and came to march in Selma. This was Black leadership bringing the people of Selma, from the sharecroppers to the students, the old and the young together with other Americans to change the country.
That fight for the political power of minority communities is far from over. Take a tour of black communities across America, communities that still suffer from disproportionately high poverty, poor schools, violence, police killings and mass incarceration and in 2008 were hit hard by the recession and home foreclosures and you will see the results of these communities being politically marginalized and abandoned.
To fully realize the vision Dr. King had for America and for the black community, we need to continue to develop new ways of coming together across racial and political divides, we must envision new types of coalitions and new conversations. We can no longer restrict our aspirations to the rising and falling fortunes of any political party. We must once again provide the leadership to build a more open political system and for the free and equal right to vote for all voters without restrictions of party affiliation.
Opening the primaries and independent redistricting are key to true minority enfranchisement because they give all voters, including the millions of minority voters who are independent, equal voting rights, the actual freedom to vote for who they choose to rather than the party dictating the choices, and the political mobility to build new kinds of on the ground coalitions.
At the conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery march, Dr. King spoke about the effect of post reconstruction segregation at the ballot box, “…the threat of the free exercise of the ballot by the Negro and white masses alike resulted in the establishment of a segregated society…That’s what happened when the Negro and white masses of the South threatened to unite and build a great society..”
We must continue to lead the country. To do that, the black community cannot be reduced to a special interest. We are a people who have forged the fight for equality and full voting rights in America with our blood and sweat and often our lives. When Dr. King was assassinated he had not reached the age of 40, yet he continues to reach beyond the time in which he lived. We can listen to hear his voice today to carry us forward.
Dr. Jessie Fields is on the board of Open Primaries, a national election-reform group. She is also a founding member of the Independence Party in New York City and a Harlem-based primary care physician.