March 17, 2015

Voter ID bill passes the House

Print

Photo via Flickr by Erik (HASH) Hersman

The House voted to approve a voter ID bill after three hours of debate, the latest in a long line of Republican priorities that have passed this session.

Photo via Flickr by Erik (HASH) Hersman

Photo via Flickr by Erik (HASH) Hersman

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, would require voters to present a form of identification when voting in person or by mail.

The legislation passed on a 37-29 vote.

While presenting the bill Brown said her aim was to prevent voter fraud no matter how prevalent it is. She argued that if laws were written based on how often crimes are committed, many current laws would be non-existent.

“Frequency is not the test,” she said.

Brown went on to say, “Some people say voter ID is a barrier, I say it’s a guardrail.”

House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, offered a floor amendment that would lessen some of the identification requirements. Egolf told the body that the amendment would avoid disenfranchising voters by allowing less stringent requirements for voter identification.

The amendment would have still required voters to present a form of photo identification, but the listed address would not have to match the one on file and the card could be expired. Brown said she did not agree with the amendment for a number of reasons, but mainly because it did not have the provision for free identification cards that her version does.

After two hours of debate on the amendment, the House tabled it on a 34 to 32 vote. Four members were excused, three Democrats and one Republican.

Egolf’s amendment was based on a voter verification bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Smith, R-Albuquerque, and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, that had passed one House committee but then stalled without being heard again.

Republicans maintained that voter fraud is a serious problem, while Democrats argued that requiring voter identification would disenfranchise voters.

Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said that “voter fraud is about as common as someone who has seen a UFO.”

Rep. John Zimmerman, R-Las Cruces, through questions towards Brown, brought up documented instances of voter fraud in New Mexico such as in Sunland Park where multiple voters were convicted in municipal elections.

A second proposed amendment was introduced by Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces. His amendment would have added a provision to allow voters to register on the same day as they vote.

HB 340 will move on to the Senate where it will be assigned committees. It still needs to pass the Senate floor before Saturday to reach Gov. Susana Martinez’s desk for a signature.

It is unlikely that there is enough time for the legislation to navigate through Senate committees. Republicans in the Senate have tried to “blast” priority legislation out of the committee process but have failed on party-line votes each time.