(Last) week in the Legislature (was) highlighted by Republican efforts to oppose same-day voter registration, HB-86, which would allow voters to register and vote on election day. The existing law in New Mexico requires that a voter first register, then be ineligible for a 28-day waiting period, then be allowed to vote. Many people don’t focus on elections until a few weeks before election day. If they are a new voter, they often discover they are ineligible unless they register at least 28 days before election day. My own experience canvassing neighborhoods before the last election was that this knocked out quite a few people, particularly young people or people who recently moved to New Mexico.
HB-86 would solve this problem and increase voter participation.
Voting is a constitutional right for citizens and we should not be putting up or maintaining unnecessary barriers to allowing people to vote. Same-day voter registration is an idea whose time has come. At least 16 states, including Colorado and Utah, have same-day voter registration. The current New Mexico Secretary of State, who formerly was clerk of Bernalillo County and is an expert on voting procedures, testified in favor of HB-86. New Mexico should join this voter modernization effort.
I would note that groups and people who want to limit voter participation often raise the possibility of voter fraud, particularly non-citizen voter fraud, as reason.
It is important to protect election integrity, but we should not undermine fair access to the ballot box in the name of baseless claims of potential voter fraud.
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The Albuquerque Journal (Jan. 28) expressed its opposition to HB-86 and cited “recent problems in Dona Ana County” as justification for its opposition. The reference was to the U.S. House of Representatives election won by Democrat Xochitl Torres Small, who now represents southern New Mexico (including Roswell) in Congress. The Journal published extensive coverage, including a picture of five lawyers for the losing Republican candidate combing through absentee ballots in the vain hope they could find technical issues that would get the election results overturned. Ultimately the Republicans never filed a court challenge because Torres Small won the election fair and square.
Voter convenience laws such as HB-86 effectively increase citizen participation in our elections and should be signed into law. The Legislature should encourage full participation so people can make their own choices about the important issues in their lives and communities.