New Mexicans are heading to the polls Tuesday to vote in the state's primary elections, but almost a fifth of the state's registered voters are being left out. Nearly 241,000 voters there are ineligble to cast a primary ballot because they have not declared a party affiliation.
New Mexico, like 11 other states, has a closed primary in which only voters registered with a party can vote. Independent and unaffiliated voters are not allowed to participate — even though they are taxed to fund the election, just like their partisan neighbors.
This year, the number of Americans who identify as politically independent reached an all-time high of 42 percent. Since 2008, independents have outnumbered both Republicans and Democrats.
Now, Albuquerque lawyer J. Edward Hollington is bringing a lawsuit against the state to force it to open its polls to all registered voters. The lawsuit argues that closed primaries violate the state constitution, which guarantees voters' rights to cast ballots "at all elections for public officers." Hollington wants the court to allow unaffiliated voters to choose the primary they want to participate in, moving to what's known as a semi-closed model. Semi-closed primaries exist already in a handful of states, including Massachusetts and New Hampshire.