February 28, 2017

A less automatic voter registration bill clears committee

An automatic voter registration bill lost a bit of what made it automatic, but moved on from the House committee that previously blocked it.

State Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Albuquerque, was one of two Democrats to previously vote against the legislation in the House Local Government, Elections and Land Grant Committee. He explained after that vote that he voted against the bill initially so he could bring it off the table, citing a parliamentary rule, and reconsider the matter.

The bill was previously tabled in the same committee.

Ely brought the bill back Tuesday. After a very brief discussion, the committee passed the bill unanimously.

“It looks complicated but it’s not,” sponsor Patricia Roybal-Caballero, D-Albuquerque, told the panel of the amendment.

“I think what we’ve done with this amendment is to again address the concerns of the committee members,” Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who supported both the original and amended bill, said.

Under the amended bill, when a New Mexican obtained or renewed their driver’s license at a Motor Vehicle Division office, a digital prompt would ask them if they wished to register to vote or update their voter registration information.

The initial bill would have automatically registered eligible voters during the MVD transaction without directly asking them. In the original version, if someone who was eligible to vote did “not decline to be registered to vote” then the transaction at MVD would be considered a valid registration to vote.

House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, clarified that point.

“What we have done is make this more of an opt-in option, is that correct?” he asked.

State Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Espanola, confirmed it would be “an electronic prompt to consent.”

Rodella was the other Democrat who voted against the initial bill.

In that previous hearing, Rodella said she thought people should decide whether or not to participate in the political process.