March 31, 2023

Guv signs sweeping new voting rights bill into law

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a voting rights expansion into law on Thursday. 

HB 4 updates the state Election Code by expanding voting rights across New Mexico including the addition of the Native American Voting Rights Act and restores rights to formerly incarcerated felons.

“For me, in particular, you know, New Mexico already is a state with expansive and productive voting rights access and protections, and that’s meaningful and I really want to say thank you to the state and all of the coalition members who have been clear about that,” Lujan Grisham said during the bill’s signing ceremony. “All the things that we have, to some degree, been able to take for granted, because we have good leadership… We cannot, in this climate, take that for granted that governors and secretaries of state and policymakers are going to be able to navigate it and we want to send a message to the rest of the country. That this is what voting protection and access should look like.”

More: Election reform bills pass Legislature

More than 50 organizations representing thousands of New Mexicans make up the coalition Lujan Grisham mentioned.

“As the rest of the country and other states rollback access to the ballot box and protections. New Mexico is leading the way: from the Native American Voting Rights Act to permanent absentee list to allowing formerly incarcerated people the right to vote,” New Mexico Speaker of the House Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, said. “I am so proud, so proud of the job that was done and accomplished this session and I know that this bill…will be a tool to give voice to those who have not had a voice and to help transform the idea of what our democracy looks like.”

The bill provides voting protections and improved voting access for Native Americans through the Native American Voting Rights Act, enhances voter registration systems and voter data privacy, restores voting rights to formerly incarcerated felons, creates a voluntary permanent absentee ballot list which allows voters who usually vote by absentee ballot to be on a list so they don’t have to reapply for each election, sets up automatic voter registration when updating an address or presenting documents at Motor Vehicle Divisions and other state agencies and designates Election Day as a school holiday.

New Mexico is the first state in the U.S. to codify protections for native and tribal communities. 

The bill goes into effect June 16.

“Today’s bill signings are a huge win for voters and election administrators that will strengthen New Mexico’s elections for years to come,” Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said in a statement following the signing ceremony. “These bills represent dedicated, years-long work from tribal leaders and community members, legislators, my staff, and election administrators across the state. Federal voting rights bills are stuck in Congress while voting access is under attack in many states across the nation. But not here in New Mexico. These bills deftly balance voter access protections with maintaining our high levels of election security and I thank Governor Lujan Grisham for signing them into law today.”

More: Toulouse Oliver talks to Senate about NM elections

Lujan Grisham signed two more Election Code update bills on Thursday.

SB 180 allows electronic signatures for nominating petitions for candidates to qualify for the primary, makes public officials’ home addresses confidential on election-related and campaign reporting documents, adds specifications for election-related Inspection of Public Records requests, creates an election security program, updates procedures for absentee ballots and improves training for election challengers and watchers.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed SB 43 which makes it a crime to intimidate election officials.

SB 43 defines intimidation as “inducing or attempting to induce fear.”

The bill came after election administrators and workers statewide, including Toulouse Oliver, reported receiving threats following the 2020 elections. 

The bill extends the same protections voters, watchers and challengers to poll workers, county clerks, municipal clerks and workers within the Secretary of State’s Office including the Secretary of State.

The bill passed all committees and the Senate unanimously and passed 62-1 in the House with Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, as the sole vote against.