ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Republican Party said Friday it is supporting a bipartisan coalition fighting a move to bring back a straight-party voting option on ballots in November.

The state GOP said it joined other groups in filing an emergency petition in the New Mexico Supreme Court to prevent the change.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, has said she is formatting ballots to allow an entire slate of party candidates to be chosen at one time.

That decision has drawn condemnation from Republicans, Libertarians and some Democrats who say it violates state law.

They say the option would favor Democrats because those who choose it would reduce the likelihood they cast votes for candidates of other parties.

About 46 percent of the state's 1.2 million voters are registered Democrats. About 30 percent are Republicans.

"The secretary of state is attempting a corrupt partisan power grab that has no support in New Mexico election law," Republican Party of New Mexico Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi said.

Others backing the petition include Unite New Mexico, the Libertarian Party of New Mexico, the Elect Liberty PAC, and Democratic state House candidate Heather Nordquist.

Nordquist, a Democrat running as a write-in candidate in a state House race in Santa Fe against Democrat Andrea Romero, said the straight-party option comes at the expense of non-partisan races, judicial retentions and important bond issues.

"If the party registration in the state of New Mexico were dominated by a party other than the Democrats, would this still seem like a good idea to them?" Nordquist asked.

John Blair, a spokesman for Toulouse Oliver, said she hasn't seen the lawsuit.

However, he said, Toulouse Oliver is "committed to providing voters with as many options as possible to ensure eligible voters participate and to keep our democratic process strong."

Former Gov. Gary Johnson signed legislation that some say banned straight-party voting nearly two decades ago. He is now running as the Libertarian Party's nominee for the U.S. Senate.

Blair said the secretary of state office has reviewed the 2001 legislation and concluded that it did not banned straight-party voting. "If that were the case, where were the lawsuits in 2002, in 2004 and in 2006 when we still had straight party voting," Blair said.

Many Republicans regard the practice of straight-ticket voting as unfair to individual candidates in New Mexico.

Moderate Democrats in some swing districts, especially in southern New Mexico, worry their races could be at risk since their victories relay on convincing GOP voters to cross over.

Also at stake is the growing bloc of independent voters who are not aligned with any party. They now make up nearly a quarter of the voter rolls.

Blair said Toulouse Oliver would have made the decision to return straight-party voting to the New Mexico voting even if registered Republicans in the state outnumbers Democrats.

"''Maggie believes in making it easier for everyone to vote," Blair said.


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