February 10, 2022

Senate committee passes Voters’ Rights Provisions bill, but strips it further

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to pass a committee substitute to the Voters’ Rights Provisions bill that strikes back end automatic voter registration.

The 6-3 vote came along party lines.

The Democrats voted in favor of the SB 8’s committee substitute, introduced by state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque. The Republicans on the committee voted against it. Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, sponsored the bill.

Some nonprofit organizations that support the voters’ rights bill, which expands access to voting for many citizens who have been disenfranchised in the past, expressed concern on Friday over the fact that the committee substitute was not available to the public to read and that the back end voter registration provision was amended out of the bill.

The backend voter registration would have streamlined the process for the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office to register individuals to vote after interacting with the New Mexico Department of Motor Vehicles or other state agencies. Instead of answering questions about voter registration on a keypad while obtaining a state license or ID card as is currently the case, the individual would receive a postcard in the mail afterwards giving them the opportunity to opt out of voter registration if they didn’t want to be registered.

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, said the backend voter registration is something that she, the governor and the sponsor of the bill are “in favor of.”

“At the end of the day, this bill is extremely important. This is a provision I care deeply about. I would like to see this section [of the bill] survive,” she said.

OLÉ New Mexico, a grassroots organization, tweeted that they are “deeply disappointed” that automatic voter registration is no longer a part of the bill.

Other parts of the bill that the committee substitute amended include eliminating election day as a state holiday but the committee substitute kept the language of the original bill that election day would be a school holiday.  

The committee substitute also removed an unregistered voter list that the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office would have overseen.

Last week the Senate Rules Committee stripped the bill of a provision that would have allowed 16-year-old individuals to vote and amended allowing 17-year-old individuals the ability to vote only if they turn 18 by the time of a general election.

With six and a half days left of the legislature, the bill heads to the Senate Finance Committee next.