By Rep. Jim G. Townsend (R-District 54)
Once again, Maggie Toulouse Oliver is up to her old partisan tricks. She has attempted others, but fortunately the courts have stopped similar shenanigans. This time she is attempting to reinstate straight-ticket voting in New Mexico. She doesn’t believe voters are smart enough to understand our ballot and choose individuals that best represent their values. She would rather trick them into a one-size-fits-all bargain to make it “easier” for them to cast their vote.
The honest, hard-working New Mexicans I’ve spoken with don’t agree with her latest attempt to manipulate the ballot. More and more voters are choosing not to affiliate with a party and are not wedded to a particular political ideology. Today, most voters, whether they’re millennials or baby boomers, want to know more about the individual candidates. They want to know how a person thinks and what life experiences they have before deciding on who would best represent them and their interests.
In today’s age of round-the-clock news channels and the Internet, voters have access to more information than ever before. Voters have higher expectations now. They expect candidates to talk directly to them and answer questions truthfully, not just offer poll-tested talking points.
Astonishingly, Ms. Toulouse Oliver sees an informed electorate as a threat. She has unilaterally decided that politicians should be bundled together and offered as a package deal to voters. When one person has the power to manipulate our state’s electoral system in this manner, our freedoms are lost.
Today, only nine states still allow straight-ticket voting, and one of those states—Texas—will eliminate it in 2020. Straight-ticket voting is a relic of the past. It’s a vestige of the old days when political bosses and their enforcers dictated how people in their communities should vote. It was used when communications were poor and knowledge was kept in tight circles. Ms. Toulouse Oliver must have a fondness for this bygone era as she wants to move our state back in time with her resurrection of straight-ticket voting.
As the saying goes, knowledge is power. Straight-ticket voting is a method used by those in power to “help” citizens by removing the need for them to become informed on individual races. Straight-ticket voting harms our governing institutions. A system that places more importance on convenience than engagement concentrates power in the hands of political kingmakers and hinders the ability of voters to keep politicians accountable. Promoting an option like that encourages citizens to vote without evaluating individual candidates and races. It helps no one in the end.
Straight-ticket voting prioritizes party over progress. Our state is facing serious challenges. New Mexico has a failing educational system, a lack of high-paying jobs, crumbling roads, and a shrinking population base. Our state must develop new ways for our families and businesses to flourish. We need talented lawmakers with new ideas to solve these problems. With straight-ticket voting, candidates may not see an incentive to developing their own innovative solutions, and voters will be stuck with nothing but stale, party-line platitudes instead.
The New Mexico Legislature voted to remove straight-ticket voting in 2001. Several attempts have been made to reinstate it, and they have all failed. This move by Ms. Toulouse Oliver is nothing but a partisan and self-serving end-run designed to benefit her and her political cronies. The timing of her decision is particularly questionable coming just 69 days before the general election.
I chuckled when I read that Ms. Toulouse Oliver said was trying to make it easier on New Mexicans. What a bunch of baloney! Sometimes, the “easy” answer is not the right answer. There are no shortcuts on the road to progress, and we cannot build a better future for New Mexico by reviving bad ideas from the past. New Mexicans deserve much more.
New Mexicans deserve transparent political processes. New Mexico needs infrastructure, roads and bridges, high-quality jobs, and diversity. Only a state government rich with ethics and principles will meet these challenges and create opportunities for our children and grandchildren to prosper right here in New Mexico.