Moving election date to March good for state

From the standpoint of raising New Mexico’s profile in the selection of presidential candidates, tabling a bill to move up the state’s primary elections from June to March was the wrong move.

If the goal is to hold down voter turnout for state and local candidates in the Democratic and Republican primaries, keeping the status quo was the right move.

House Bill 346, sponsored by House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, would make New Mexico a player on the national political scene.
With its current June primary, New Mexico is among the last states to vote for presidential candidates. By then those candidacies have pretty much been decided without New Mexico’s input — or attention from national candidates.

And with none of the big national contests in play, voter turnout is naturally lower.

If HB 346 is approved, the change would go into effect for 2016 and subsequent presidential election cycles in even-numbered election years. That would mean the 2016 primary would be held March 15.

However, the bill was tabled in the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on a 6-6 party line vote — Democrats opposing and Republicans supporting.

Some Democrats claim it would complicate races for state and local candidates because candidates for governor and the Legislature are barred from raising campaign cash and accepting lobbyist money around and during legislative sessions, which occur during January and February of the affected years.

These concerns are not insurmountable and should not trump New Mexico stepping up its game and reaping the economic benefits of having national candidates visit the state courting votes — and raising general voter interest in the process.

The bill isn’t dead — yet. Gentry says he intends to amend the bill and resurrect it. He should. And opponents should abandon their political self-preservation instinct and do what’s right for New Mexico voters.

— Albuquerque Journal