February 26, 2023

Election code update passes Senate

Screenshot of Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, during a Senate floor session on Feb. 25, 2023, discussing SB 180 which updates elections in New Mexico.

Screenshot of Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, during a Senate floor session on Feb. 25, 2023, discussing SB 180 which updates elections in New Mexico.

The state Senate approved a bill seeking to update the state election code on a 23-13, party-line vote.

SB 180 seeks to update the state’s Election Code including, but not limited to, specifying when the Inspection of Public Records Act, or IPRA, can be used in election-based disclosures, allowing electronic nominating petition signatures, creating an election security program, requiring training for election challengers and watchers, revising requirements for the impoundment of ballots, audits, voting machine rechecks and recounts, revising election-related crimes and authorizing taxpayer information to be revealed to the secretary of state for purposes of maintaining voter registration records.

“This is a bill that should look very familiar to this body because we’ve seen it for three years now,” Duhigg said. “SB180 is simply a pared down version of last year’s rendition, which was SB 6, which passed this body unanimously… But all of the changes that are in this bill, are borne from actual experiences that our election administrators have been navigating. Many of them have already been bug tested.”

Many of the bill’s provisions were activated on a temporary basis during the 2020 election due to the COVID-19 public health crisis.

“The changes that are in SB 180 are really needs not wants,”  Duhigg said. “These are technical, nonpartisan changes to our election code that provide needed clarity for our election administrator so that they can efficiently and uniformly administer our publicly funded elections here in New Mexico.”

Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, submitted an amendment that sought to add verbiage to the line: “The county clerk shall only accept applications for a mailed ballot made through the official web portal operated by the secretary of state or submitted on the official form” that the form came from the county clerk’s office.

Pirtle’s amendment failed on a 13-23 vote.

Another amendment was submitted by Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, that would have required photo identification for votes.

The amendment failed on the same 13-23 vote.

One of the votes against SB 180 was Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, who stated his disillusionment that the bill was not done this year in the spirit of bipartisanship that it was last year.

“Last year we had a bipartisan bill. We worked in good faith because our republic needed (it)…. There’s been a trying couple years and I made a personal commitment to the Secretary of State and the sponsor of legislation last year that I wanted to work together on election bill because our republic needed that, and I took a lot of heat from my party and a lot of the advocates on our side of the aisle for working with your party, for coming to a bill that I thought was a pretty good bill,” Moores said.

Moores said that he said he “made a commitment” to the Secretary of State to support the bill this year.

However, because of the two amendments, which he described as minor changes, not passing, Moores said he could not support the bill.

The bill was approved with amendments in the Senate Rules Committee on a party line 7-3 vote while it was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Amendments from SRC included adding a section allowing the Secretary of State to adopt rules allowing public officials to make their home addresses confidential in election and financial disclosures, remove language in the proposed bill that requires election board members to be registered to vote, require replacement ballots be mailed no less than seven days before election day unless the voter’s address is confidential, allows the SOS to adopt rules when two or more candidates running for the same office in the same election have names that are so similar that it could cause confusion and, for local elections, require candidacy declarations have a nominating petition with the legally required number of signatures for the specific office.