The state’s first bloc of 17-year-olds who are qualified to vote numbers 1,267.
They can cast ballots in the June 7 primary elections, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office said this week.
A new state law allows 17-year-olds to register and vote in the June primaries if they will turn 18 before the general election on Nov. 8. State legislators approved the measure this year and Gov. Susana Martinez signed it.
Of the New Mexico 17-year-olds who registered to vote in the primaries, 874 are Democrats and 393 are Republicans.
Another 316 17-year-olds also registered, but they cannot cast a ballot in a primary because they did not align themselves with either major political party. New Mexico’s primaries are open only to those voters registered as Democrats or Republicans.
New Mexico follows Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Nevada and Wyoming, all of which have approved similar laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New Mexico’s law for 17-year-old voters comes during a presidential election year, when voters typically turn out in greater numbers than in mid-term elections.
Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, sponsored the bill permitting some 17-year-olds to vote in primaries. He proposed the measure for three years before persuading a majority of fellow legislators to approve it.
“I think that’s fantastic,” Steinborn said of the number of 17-year-olds eligible to vote in the primaries. “Those are 1,000-plus New Mexicans who now have a stake and are getting involved in our civic government.”
Triana Reid is among the 17-year-olds who registered to vote in the Democratic primary. She said her U.S. history teacher, Roxanne Seagraves, at the New Mexico School for the Arts in Santa Fe, told her and her classmates about the law.
Reid turns 18 in October. Her opportunity to vote in the primary is significant for another reason. Certain county and state legislative races have no Republican candidates, so the Democratic primary will determine who takes office.
“I just think it’s important to voice your opinion on such an important thing as the presidential election,” Reid said. “And if you have the opportunity to vote, you should take it.”
Contact Uriel Garcia at 505-986-3062 or firstname.lastname@example.org.