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.
A bill that would expand the state’s Election Code passed the Senate Rules Committee on a party-line 5-2 vote on Monday.
HB 4 aims to expand automatic voter registration, restore convicted felons’ right to vote upon release from prison, create a voluntary permanent absentee voter list, and enact the Native American Voting Rights Act to the state Election Code. “Despite a lot of recent progress in strengthening voting opportunities for all New Mexicans, New Mexico still lags behind other states and our percentage of citizens that are registered to vote, and the number of folks who exercise that right at election time and this tells us that despite the the excellent work that our secretary of state has done for many years, we still have more work to do. Which is why the New Mexico Voting Rights Act is here before you,” bill co-sponsor Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque said. More: Voting rights expansion passes House
Duhigg offered an amendment that passed the committee
A section of the bill could leave the state open to litigation under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. The amendment removed section three of the bill which concerns voter information dissemination.
Adam John Griego is dreaming of the day he can vote again.
The 50-year-old Santa Fean, who spent two years in prison for a felony drug possession charge, anticipates how it will feel when he can finally cast a ballot once more: “Liberating,” he said. “Like freedom.” That’s important for a man who has been free for more than two years but still feels incarcerated in so many ways, he said during a break from working on a vehicle at Great Little Cars in Santa Fe.
“It’s weird because you come out of prison and you feel like you’re still in prison, if that makes sense, because there’s always someone watching you,” he said, his eyes searching for something — acceptance, perhaps — as he shared the circumstances leading to his fight to restore voting rights to felons after they get out of prison. “There’s a paranoia attached to it,” he said. Recalling the many doors that first opened — jobs, housing opportunities, a chance to buy a vehicle — and then shut after a background check came through, he said he is now working to help others like him regain a sense of right.
A bill restoring voting rights for felons while they are still on probation or parole cleared its first legislative hurdle Wednesday. Members of the House Judiciary Committee voted 6-4 to support House Bill 74, which also will make it easier for felons to register to vote as they leave prison. The vote fell along party lines, with Democrats supporting the legislation and Republicans opposing it.
The bill will head to the floor, its sponsor, Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, said Wednesday. Chasey said restoring voting rights to people who have served their time helps them “engage in their communities and not go back to prison.” She and some two-dozen members of the public who spoke in favor of the bill said voting rights help rehabilitate former prisoners and should be granted without any sense of judgement.
Justin Allen, a New Mexican who testified in favor of the bill, said he had served time in prison.
With a larger majority in the House this year, Democrats passed a number of changes to the state’s voting system as part of the flood of legislation sent to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk. Some had passed only to be vetoed by former Gov. Susana Martinez, while conservative Democrats killed other efforts before reaching the governor’s desk. The bills included some progressive priorities, including expanding disclosure of campaign finance information and expanding automatic voter registrations. Passed
Early & Auto Voter Registration (SB 672)
In the past, conservative Democrats blocked the expansion of automatic voter registration and same-day voting registration. Once Lujan Grisham signs the bill, as she is expected to do, beginning in 2021, New Mexico voters will be able to register to vote or update their registration at polling locations when voting.