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The Latest: New Mexico court blocks straight-ticket option

September 12, 2018

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The Latest on New Mexico’s straight-party voting option (all times local):

4:15 p.m.

The New Mexico Supreme Court is blocking a ballot option that would have allowed voters to select candidates from one particular party in all races by marking a single box.

The court made its decision Wednesday after listening to oral arguments about a plan from the state’s top elections regulator to reinstate straight-ticket voting in the November general election.

The court found that Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver did not have authority to impose such a change.

Critics of the practice say it primarily harms independent, minor-party and Republican candidates in a state dominated by registered Democrats.

They argued in court that state law doesn’t clearly say whether authority to design ballot forms extends to substantive decisions about straight-party voting, and that Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver should have consulted the public through the rulemaking process.

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3:30 p.m.

The New Mexico Supreme Court has indicated it will decide Wednesday whether voters should be allowed to select candidates from a particular party in all races by marking a single ballot box.

At issue is a plan from the state’s top elections regulator to reinstate straight-ticket voting in the November general election.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver argued she has authority over ballot forms, including the discretion to determine whether to include a straight-party voting option.

Critics questioned that authority Wednesday, saying such decisions should be made by the Legislature and should be informed by data on voting behavior. They also raised concerns that no public hearings were held before Toulouse Oliver announced the change.

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1:45 p.m.

Attorneys are arguing before the New Mexico Supreme Court whether voters should be allowed to select candidates from a particular party in all races by marking a single ballot box.

The attorneys began presenting their cases Wednesday afternoon. It’s not clear how long it will take the court to issue a ruling.

At issue is a plan from the state’s top elections regulator to reinstate straight-ticket voting in the November general election. Critics say it primarily harms independent, minor-party and Republican candidates in a state dominated by registered Democrats.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat running for re-election, is seeking to buck the national trend as straight-party voting is a vanishing practice.

Only nine states allow it, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Several states have abolished it since the 1990s, most recently in Texas with legislation enacted last year that will take effect in 2020.

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12 a.m.

The New Mexico Supreme Court is considering whether voters should be allowed to select candidates from a particular party in all races by marking a single ballot box.

The court was scheduled to hear oral arguments Monday in a request to prohibit straight-party voting on November ballots.

Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has announced plans to provide a straight-party option for the first time since 2010. Democrats dominate voter registration rolls statewide.

Critics of that plan include the Republican and Libertarian parties, advocates for independent candidates and even some Democrats. They say lawmakers already struck the straight party voting language from state statutes and that the practice would violate the rights of independent and minor-party candidates.

Toulouse Oliver says the straight-party option simplifies and speeds up voting.

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