I bet the New Mexico Supreme Court would sure appreciate a day or two at home for some social distancing these days. Unfortunately, they’ve got to go to work.
On Monday, 27 county clerks filed a petition with the Supreme Court requesting the June 2 primary election be conducted solely by mail—i.e., all votes cast by absentee ballot. Tuesday, the state GOP filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court to block the mail-only election request.
The country clerks want to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at polling places. The Republican Party is concerned about absentee ballot fraud. I can easily understand both sides’ point of view.
We just had two criminal convictions this year for voter fraud involving absentee ballots in Rio Arriba County. So I am not at all comfortable with an all-mail election (also explain to me how you are going to get millennials to acquire stamps and find a mailbox). But I sure as hell don’t want to die voting in a primary.
Here’s one way to have an election that can make both sides happy: Delay the primary.
And I know some folks are against that, arguing that delaying the primary would take New Mexico out of the contention in naming a Democratic presidential candidate. Here’s a tip: We probably already are, as 34 delegates are unlikely to create a tipping point in a two-way race. But I think New Mexico can still get votes in ahead of the conventions.
New York, with more than eight times the Democratic presidential delegates at stake, has already made the decision to push up against the political conventions, moving its primary to June 23. I suspect it might be delayed further. I’d be really surprised if the DNC and RNC wouldn’t wait for New York votes.
A delayed primary could also allow our candidates to, you know, campaign. Otherwise, I am afraid we are looking at a few weeks of robocalls and mailers. I refuse to answer robocalls, and I put most mailers straight into the recycling bin—I don’t think I am alone in this.
With voters at home doing online research when they feel like it and self-selecting the candidate information that appeals to them, it will be much harder for a local candidate to break onto the scene with a compelling narrative.
I admit I do kind of love the idea of an abbreviated active campaigning season, even if I hate the reason. I believe the current American model of 12 to 18 months of campaigning before each election makes voters jaded and simply perpetuates the now-normal massive fundraising requirements for candidates. What if you only needed campaign services for 30 days before each election? You sure could save a lot in consulting fees. (Not to worry, political consultant friends. I understand Amazon is hiring.)
Most importantly, delaying the primary will ensure maximum participation in the 2020 election cycle. And that’s a pretty big deal. There are contested races on both sides of the primary ballot, so we can’t wait this one out and pick up in November.
Our national and statewide races are nearly all contested in this primary, and many of our local ones are, too. Even though more and more voters are declining to register with a major party, the 2020 primaries for both Rs and Ds feature extreme left- and right-of-center candidates challenging more moderate incumbents.
A brief pause for a MOO (Merritt’s Opinion Only) statement. This should really give independents pause; if you truly want more moderate politicians in office, you might need to bite the bullet and align with a party for the primary. Otherwise you risk finding yourself in November with your only choices being extremists on each side of the aisle.
We only get to elect a President and our entire state Legislature every four years. I hope New Mexico will make the right decision for all voters and delay the primary. Campaigns need the opportunity to mobilize, and 2020 should be a year for maximum participation rather than quickly getting the primary out of the way with minimal engagement.
Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive and retired Naval officer who wipes down surfaces religiously. She is self-isolating with her Democratic husband and Republican mother north of I-40 where they run two head each of dog and cat.