- Associated Press - Monday, October 27, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A state district judge delayed making a decision Monday in a lawsuit filed by an independent voter that could radically transform New Mexico’s two-party primary system.

State District Judge Denise Barela-Shepherd said she wanted both the Republican and Democratic parties in New Mexico to weigh in before she makes a ruling, even though neither party has shown any interest in the lawsuit.

“Their interests have to be acknowledged,” Barela-Shepherd said.

The lawsuit filed by David Crum, 45, of Albuquerque, on behalf of the state’s 250,000 independent voters, seeks to allow people the right to pick a party on the day of the primary so they can vote.

Barela-Shepherd could have ruled on the case and ordered the state to allow independent voters to cast ballots during the state’s next primary. Instead, she opted to give the parties a chance to issue responses to the lawsuit.

Currently, New Mexico’s state elections only let Republicans and Democrats vote during primary elections - something critics say contributes to low voter turnout.

“We were hoping that the judge was going to rule on it today,” Crum said. “Both political parties have not shown much interest.”

Officials said voter turnout dropped 8 percent in New Mexico’s June primary election, with only one in five Democratic and Republican voters casting ballots this year.

In the Democratic primary, about 22 percent of registered voters cast ballots - down from 24 percent in 2010. Nearly 5,800 fewer Democrats voted in this year’s primary contests.

About 18 percent of eligible Republicans voted compared with 34 percent four years ago when the party had a hotly contested gubernatorial primary race. The number of Republicans casting ballots dropped by about 50,000 from 2010.

Crum’s attorney, Ed Hollington, said nearly 200 state offices were decided without any input from independent voters during the primaries. Hollington vowed he would keep pressing on the lawsuit.

“It’s not the end of the story,” he said.

___

Follow Russell Contreras at https://twitter.com/russcontreras .


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