Can Independents Vote In New Mexico? New Legislation Could Change The Game

The last primaries of the 2016 election season are coming up on Tuesday, and the country is preparing to finally settle the question of the presidential nominations. As the last Americans get their shot at selecting their presidential preference, there's one group of voters who won't be able to participate in the final Super Tuesday election. Can Independents vote in New Mexico? Both parties feature a closed system, so only those registered with the Republican or Democratic party can vote in that party's primary.

Of course, New Mexico isn't the only state to feature a closed system, but the electoral process has been particularly scrutinized in this election cycle. Many argue that the closed system is perfectly fair because the process is intended to determine the preferences of the party's loyal voters, but a strong opposition force maintains that the closed primary keeps voters from rightfully expressing their presidential preference and doesn't give an accurate picture of how the country will respond in a general election. In New Mexico's case, the closed system affects about 280,000 voters who are unaffiliated or registered with a third party.

Unfortunately, the confluence of several factors affecting the primary means that very little attention has been paid to New Mexico in this election season. Both races are essentially predetermined, so candidates have spent minimal time campaigning and addressing New Mexicans' issues. New Mexico only carries 43 Democratic delegates and 24 Republican delegates, so by this late in the game, those potatoes are way too small for the candidates. It's one of the pervasive issues with the primary system as it currently stands — because the states at the tail end of the cycle intrinsically carry less import, the presidential candidates spend less time campaigning in those states and working to publicize the issues affecting their communities. In addition to the already diminished voter pool due to the closed system, the New Mexican primary won't be as impactful as it could be.

There's a ray of hope for the 22 percent of New Mexican voters who aren't affiliated with either major party — state lawmakers introduced legislation to change both primaries from the closed system to an open system earlier this year. It obviously won't happen before Tuesday's primary, but it could mean an opportunity for unaffiliated or third party voters in 2020. The closed primary system will leave many New Mexicans out of the primary system on Tuesday, but the state is predicted to be a potentially crucial swing state in November.