Lawmakers spent 7½ hours Friday listening to testimony and debating a complex and controversial bill supporters say would expand voter access but opponents contend would lead to election fraud. The Senate Rules Committee approved an amendment striking a provision from Senate Bill 8 that would have allowed 16-year-olds to vote. The chairman, Democratic Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto of Albuquerque, then abruptly ended the hearing before a final vote on the New Mexico Voting Rights Act. “It’s a long day, but this is an important bill,” Ivey-Soto said in an interview Friday night. “It deals with important rights and important issues [affecting voters].
After a rancorous and partisan debate Wednesday, state senators approved a bill that would allow people to register to vote up to three days before an election. Voter registration now stops 28 days before a primary or general election. The bill sponsor, Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, called that an antiquated cutoff date and said some states offer same-day voter registration. Steinborn’s Senate Bill 224 passed on a 19-11 party-line vote with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposing. The fact that all Republicans voted against it probably is not a good sign that Republican Gov. Susana Martinez would sign the bill if it clears the House of Representatives.
Last week, Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver spoke during a panel at Netroots Nation in Phoenix, Arizona. Netroots Nation received attention when Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley were confronted by a group of activists from #BlackLivesMatter. Earlier in the conference, Toulouse Oliver sat on a panel about voter rights. Toulouse Oliver has long been an advocate for less voting restrictions. New Mexico Political Report spoke with her shortly after her panel.