February 27, 2023

Bill prohibiting firearms at polling places passes first House committee

A "Vote Here" sign at the Otero County Fairgrounds in Alamogordo.

Nicole Maxwell

A "Vote Here" sign at the Otero County Fairgrounds in Alamogordo.

A bill that would ban firearms at all polling places passed the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on a party-line 4-3 vote Monday.

“The premise of SB 44 is straightforward and it’s as follows: guns and elections don’t mix,” bill sponsor Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe said. “What this bill does is prohibit the carrying of a firearm within 100 feet of a polling place. It is drafted to contain exemptions for a peace officer and for security authorized by the local government to be stationed within 100 feet of the polling place.”

The bill was co-sponsored by House Majority Whip Rep. Reena Szczepanski, D-Santa Fe.

More: Bill prohibiting firearms at polling places moves to House

Many public commenters who spoke against the bill asked why this bill was needed and if the issue of people carrying firearms at polling places was, indeed, a problem.

“This bill came to me from constituents who, during this last election cycle, were working in the polls and experienced folks at the polling places with guns, and expressed extreme concern about that, brought it to my attention and I took a look at the law and it just seemed to me, didn’t make sense to have one set of rules for polling places in certain places and another set of somewhere else and so that’s why I put this bill together,” Wirth said.

The bill passed the Senate last week and now heads to the House Judiciary Committee.