December 4, 2015

New proposed rules would implement online registration

Photo via Flickr by Erik (HASH) Hersman

There still isn’t a permanent Secretary of State more than a month after the resignation of Dianna Duran, but the office scheduled a public review of proposed rule changes for later this month.

Photo via Flickr by Erik (HASH) Hersman

Photo via Flickr by Erik (HASH) Hersman

The proposed rule changes will be discussed at a public hearing on December 29; the rules are required to go into effect by the beginning of 2016.

This year, Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill requiring the Secretary of State to start allowing online updates to existing voter registrations by the beginning of the year allow for online of new voter registrations by the beginning of July 1, 2017.

Secretary of State Chief of Staff Ken Ortiz said that a lack of a permanent Secretary of State is no barrier to implementing the rule changes.

“The Office of Secretary of State has an Acting Secretary, Mary Quintana who is in charge and leading the office, including the rule-making process,” Ortiz told NM Political Report in an emailed statement. “Given the strict timeframes established by the election code, Acting Secretary Quintana believes it is in the best interests of all voters and citizens that the process continue to move forward.”

Viki Harrison, the executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, said the organization was largely in support of the changes and that the changes have been in discussion for some time.

“This proposed rule is something the County Clerks worked on with the [Secretary of State’s] office so the state can implement the new online voter registration system that was passed in the last session,” she said in an email.

She said one thing she would like added is language to for notices to felons who have been removed from voter rolls as well as the families of those who have died and were removed from the rolls.

Harrison also said the timing of the hearing was “horrible.”

“The week in between Christmas and New Year’s is not conducive to public participation,” she said, of the week where many throughout the country are on vacation and out of town.

The Democratic Party of New Mexico slammed the timing, attributing it to the Martinez administration. The Secretary of State’s office is not part of the governor’s office and is a separate elected position, though Martinez is the one who will name a replacement for Duran.

“Only the Martinez administration would consider it acceptable to hold last-minute hearings about ballot access three days before the proposed changes go into effect—and without an elected Secretary of State or permanent Elections Director in place,” the state party’s executive director Joe Kabourek said in a statement to media.

Quintana has been the acting Secretary of State since Duran resigned in late October. Duran then pleaded guilty to six charges, including two felonies, related to campaign finances.