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If your political affiliation is “Independent,” rather thanRepublican, Democrat or Libertarian, you may be able to vote in those parties’ primary elections this summer. A change in state statutes now permits citizens who consider themselves Independents (those who assert “decline to state” affiliation) to temporarily change to Democrat, Republican or Libertarian when they show up at the polls, cast ballots for their choices and revert back to Independent later the same day if they so wish.

At least that’s how Corrales’ Bob Perls interprets the new rules after conferring with N.M. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver earlier this month. Perls, a former Democratic State representative, is founder and president of New Mexico Open Elections. He is now registered as a “decline to state” voter. In an email newsletter April 6, Perls explained that “as an independent voter —called a declined-to-state (DTS) voter in New Mexico— I can walk up to a polling location this June and vote.

“I have to change my voter registration on-site, in real-time to the major party for which I want to vote, but nonetheless, I can vote in a major party partisan primary and then change back to DTS online after.”

He said that situation is not ideal and is not what New Mexico Open Elections has lobbied for over the past six years. “There was a little known change to the statute passed two special sessions ago; we embrace it as a substantial improvement. It’s not ideal, but it is time to let all decline-to-state voters in New Mexico know that they can vote in the June primary.”

Perls said the Secretary of State’s Office expects to explain on its website by the end of April how this will work.

“Allowing DTS voters to vote in partisan primaries is a nice baby step, but it does not get at the heart of what is broken in our political system and that is partisan primaries. 

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Over the next two years, Perls said, New Mexico Open Elections will focus  on four areas of reform :

  • Fully open elections (ranked choice voting and open non-partisan primaries)
  • Fully independent redistricting commission
  • A professional legislature for New Mexico and
  • Adoption of citizen initiative in New Mexico

 Perls said these innovations are ways  “to make sure that all candidates have to talk with, and listen to, all voters all the time, not just the party base. It could be the beginning of creating a political climate that actually works for all of us.”

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