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Editorial

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Albuquerque – In making a case for her plan to resurrect the straight party voting option in New Mexico, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver says it makes it much easier for voters of all stripes to cast a ballot. (Straight party voting allows voters to check a single box to vote for a major party's entire slate of candidates.)

"The reality of straight party voting," Toulouse Oliver said in a guest column in the Journal last week, "is that more voters will be able to participate in the voting process, and the process itself will be quicker and easier."

OK. But if Toulouse Oliver's primary goal is simply to make voting easier, and by easier she means faster, then why not just allow voters to sign a proxy handing their ballots over to the political party of their choice to vote as party officials see fit? Sure, that's a little over the top, but it's effectively what the straight party option does. So if speed is the name of the game, then that's the way to go in Toulouse Oliver's world.

But for anyone who actually cares about having an informed electorate, straight party voting is a terrible idea. Voting in this country is a sacred right and a responsibility, and it's not too much to ask voters to consider each race on the ballot. They can still vote for every Democrat or every Republican if they so choose, but they should consider each race. Individual candidates and their stances on issues matter.

It's disappointing Toulouse Oliver is trying to take New Mexico backward on this issue. The Legislature abolished straight ticket voting in 2001, the state finally stopped using it in 2012 under then-Secretary of State Dianna Duran, the first Republican in the office in decades, and the Legislature has since refused to reinstate it. Only nine states still use it – and Texas is dropping it effective in 2020.

So besides being a bad idea, there's a good argument the secretary of state doesn't have the legal authority to unilaterally revive straight party voting.

Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, contends through a spokesman that there's nothing in state statute that would prohibit her from restoring straight party voting. The Republican Party has indicated it might pursue a court challenge if it's reinstituted.

Toulouse Oliver has said she'd like to bring it back, possibly as soon as November, although her office intends to hold public hearings before moving forward.

Critics of her plan also argue straight party voting gives an unfair advantage to major party candidates, especially Democrats, over independent candidates or those affiliated with minor parties. (Roughly 46 percent of the state's registered voters are Democrats, while about 29 percent are Republicans. The rest are Libertarians, voters affiliated with minor political parties or independents.) Straight party voting is also likely to benefit down-ballot candidates who ride the party coattails but hurt nonpartisan down-ballot races where voters don't bother to weigh in, such as judicial retention, bond questions, constitutional amendments and the like.

Bob Perls, a registered independent, former state representative and founder of New Mexico Open Primaries, argues, "Straight ticket voting is not about helping the elderly or handicapped, it is about helping the major parties and mostly in NM the Democratic Party."

"Six states have eliminated this practice in the last decade," he says. "This choice is going backwards."

Toulouse Oliver counters that anyone marking the straight party voting option would still be able to vote for a candidate belonging to a different party and have that vote count.

The bottom line here is that straight party voting primarily serves party bosses, not voters. In a Facebook-scandal world we need an informed electorate now more than ever, and reinstituting straight party voting takes us in the opposite direction.

If Toulouse Oliver is really all about making voting easier, she should shelve this plan to take New Mexico back to the bad old days of pledging allegiance to a political party and champion open primaries instead. New Mexico is one of only nine states that fully disenfranchise independent voters – this year 265,355, or 22 percent, of registered voters will not be allowed to cast a ballot in the June 5 primary for everything from governor to county sheriff.

A system that makes voting possible for more than a quarter of a million people is worth championing. A system that just makes voting easier for the benefit of a major party is not.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

For 130 years, Gila Regional Medical Center (GRMC) and its predecessors have provided Grant County with trusted, quality care. The Grant County Board of Commissioners has never wavered in its commitment to ensuring our region has access to local, high-quality healthcare.

From the County Commission’s 1970 purchase of the land where GRMC sits today to the Commission’s naming and opening of the hospital in 1983, the County Commission has always worked to do the right thing for our community’s healthcare future.

You can't have it both ways

 Most of these were comments heard at recent meetings or in conversations or synthesized from recent readings.

The first two were uttered by the same person. And the third one was said by a person also advocating for more wilderness areas in the Gila National Forest.

I would like to thank the many intelligent people of Grant County and Silver City who went to the USAF Flyover Meeting--on very short notice--and spoke their minds against the F-16 flyovers on March 9, 2018.

We all owe a deep debt of gratitude to Kyle Johnson of KURU, for taping the entire two and a half hours and for re-airing it--besides asking for and getting the agreement of the USAF representative managing the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process, Alan Shafer, that the entire audiotape be entered into the record as evidence in the on-going draft EIS statement preparation. We will be looking for that as evidence in draft EIS comments.

People often ask if NMBC supports Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP). Quite honestly, JTIP has rarely been a good thing for New Mexico. While NMBC can support the concept of what was designed to provide on-the-job and classroom training that reimburses for 50 to 75 percent of wages for newly created jobs, it seems we just have not found an effective way to manage it. New Mexico is really good at giving away taxpayer dollars, but we often get nothing for it.

Another case of failure was recently reported in the Albuquerque Journal. Convergys is laying off 151 full time employees by the end of April. This is the same company that received $200,000 in 2017 to provide 100 jobs with an average wage of 12.25 an hour. The company and the NM Economic Development Department said the company had met its obligations for the program.

gail steuart copyBy Gail E. Steuart

My husband Barry and I moved to Silver City from Tucson about 5 years ago when I retired as executive secretary to the owner of O’Rielly Motor Company. I love Silver City and have not been back to Tucson since I moved here.

I recently found that I needed a total hip replacement. I am 81 years old and had only experienced minor surgeries before. I was strongly advised by a friend to see a doctor in Las Cruces who had done her hip replacement. She went to Mountain View Hospital for her surgery.

By Paul J. Gessing

The Catholic archbishops of New Mexico have become the leading advocates of increasing the money taken out of the State's "Permanent Fund" in an effort to create a variety of early childhood programs, including "pre-K."

This has been a controversial issue in the Roundhouse for years, but things really heated up when Catholic Church lobbyist Allen Sanchez accused opponents of the measure of "racism" in the wake of the proposal's defeat during the 2018 Legislature.

Seldom are we impressed with our government's efficiency, but this was truly an exception.

In mid-January my son/brother and his crew of three left California on his 65-foot sailboat on a trip to Costa Rica. Under the best of circumstances, they should have reached their destination in mid-February. When we did not hear from him after forty-seven days we became concerned. The trip should have taken half that time. So, we called the Coast Guard.

The men and women at the Alameda Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Center in California were courteous, professional, organized, and compassionate. They were able to coordinate efforts with 6 countries along a 2500-mile coast and locate the boat in under 30 hours! The boat and crew are safe and sound and have now reached their destination port.

We are very much relieved and everlastingly grateful to the Coast Guard for their fine work. And we send a great big thank you to these fine citizens.

Sincerely

Frances R. Day, mother
David A. Peck, brother

Live from Silver City

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The Grant County Beat endeavors to post to the Elections page, under News, at the least, notices of candidates for Grant County races. Some candidates for statewide races have also sent their notices. 

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