Independent voter sues state to open primary elections to all voters

Posted at: 06/03/2014 5:30 PM
Updated at: 06/03/2014 5:40 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

On this primary election day, a historic lawsuit is now filed that could change the way New Mexico voters choose the candidates who represent them. It's a lawsuit on behalf of the state's 250,000 independent voters, and it seeks to break down the doors that keep New Mexico's primary elections locked up for Democrats and Republicans only.

KOB Eyewitness News 4 reported on the pending suit last week. As of 9 a.m. Tuesday, it was officially filed.

The lawsuit makes it clear: Independent voters, like all taxpayers, pick up the tab for the Republican and Democratic primaries. The current one will cost in excess of $3 million. But the independent voters do not get to vote in what they're paying for.

"Not allowing them to vote in the primary election violates our New Mexico Constitution," said lawyer Edward Hollington of Albuquerque, who drew up the lawsuit and filed it Tuesday. "That's it, very simple. The Constitution guarantees in our state of New Mexico, the Constitution bill of rights, that all elections are free and open. The term open is used – not closed."

"I feel that the political parties have hijacked this process to some extent, by closing the process to people like me and the almost 250,000 people in New Mexico who are undeclared in terms of their party affiliation," said independent voter David Crum, the plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Independents hope to have a ruling from the New Mexico Supreme Court in time for the 2016 primaries. The lawsuit won't affect the current primary at all.

So who gets heartburn over this idea? Some of the top leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, who believe it would weaken the two-party system. Now, they'll get their day in court to argue their case.