Senate Republicans pulled a legislative maneuver Saturday to successfully block debate on a governor-backed bill advocates say will expand voting rights in New Mexico but opponents contend Democrats are using for political gain. The procedure, a stall tactic known as a “call of the Senate,” requires every member of the chamber to be physically present in the Capitol for a bill to be considered. Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, unleashed the maneuver on Senate Bill 8, known as the New Mexico Voting Rights Act, at the start of the floor session before the bill was even brought up for debate. “Sergeant at arms, round up the members and lock the doors,” Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, who was presiding over the floor session, said after Brandt made the motion for a call of the Senate. Around 3:30 p.m., Stewart said Sens.
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.
Finding a polling place. Waiting in line. Filling out a ballot. Most New Mexico voters don’t seem to have many complaints about that part of Election Day. But while a new survey has found plenty of confidence in the democratic process as it plays out at the polling place, it also found plenty of concerns about the sanctity of New Mexico’s elections, whether it is the specter of hackers, the influence of big-spending campaign donors or a news media that many view as biased.
A bill to allow voters to register on the same day they vote cleared its first House committee Wednesday. The House, State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee advanced the proposal on a party-line vote. The bill aims to let voters register or update their voter registration during early voting or on Election Day, and vote on the same day. Currently, voters must register four weeks before the election to be eligible to vote. One of the bill’s Democratic co-sponsors, Patricia Roybal Caballero of Albuquerque, said the legislation “is the ultimate access bill to allow voters to access the electoral process as openly as possible.”
The bill would allow new voters to register on Election Day and those already registered to change their address.
Right now, if New Mexicans want to participate in elections, they have to register four weeks before Election Day. But legislative efforts look to change that. Right now, if New Mexicans want to participate in elections, they have to register four weeks before Election Day. But legislative efforts look to change that. State Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, is the Senate sponsor of a same-day registration bill, which he says will help the state reach its “obligation to citizens to enfranchise their voting rights.”
“Year after year, we meet people who really are not plugged in or tuned into an election until really close to it, at which point it’s too late for people to register to vote,” he said.
On Friday, in response to a judge’s order, the Department of Justice released data showing the authors, recipients, timing, and subject lines of a group of emails sent to and from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. They show that in the weeks before the commission issued a controversial letter requesting sweeping voter data from the states, co-chair Kris Kobach and the commission’s staff sought the input of Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams on “present and future” state data collection, and attached a draft of the letter for their review — at a moment when neither had yet been named to the commission. The commission’s letter requesting that data has been by far its most significant action since its formation in May — and was widely considered a fiasco. It sparked bipartisan criticism and multiple lawsuits. Yesterday, a state court blocked the state of Texas from handing over its data due to privacy concerns. The involvement by Adams and von Spakovsky, both Republicans, in drafting the letter even before they were nominated to the commission shows their influence.
The 2016 general election is here in New Mexico. Today is the first day of early voting in some locations and is also the final day to register to vote for the general election. Those who have not yet registered or need to update their registration can do so through the Secretary of State’s website, provided they have a driver’s license number or state identification number, through midnight or can send in a paper form through the mail. Through the mail, proofs of residency can include a utility bill, a paycheck, a student identification number, or a number of other documents. Meanwhile, registered voters can vote early in-person or apply for absentee ballots beginning today.
The months leading up to the general election show an increasing number of voters in New Mexico aligning themselves with a political party in the state rather than registering as independents. Democrats account for roughly half of registered voters, according to data from the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office. The other half splits among Republicans, minor parties and those who decline to state an affiliation. But since January the number of registered Democrats spiked by about five percentage points and the number of registered Republicans increased by roughly 4 percentage points. Minor parties also saw an increase in voter registration since the beginning of the year.
Teresa Smith de Cherif is a doctor, member of the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District Board and former candidate for state representative. As a physician working in deeply rural areas and small cities of New Mexico, where there are chronic shortages of doctors, I am well familiar with the socioeconomic constraints of my patients that impact their access to care. Not infrequently, patients will explain that they missed a specialty consultation or appointment for a magnetic resonance imaging study because they didn’t have “gas for the ride.” While working on temporary assignment this past week in the Clovis area, I toured the city with a family friend and saw that hard working folks there worry whether their children will graduate from high school, stress over the road conditions on the west side, and juggle paying for a prescription with needing to put gas in the truck. In this setting, elections are important, providing to people the opportunity to weigh in on issues that affect them.
ROSWELL — In southeast New Mexico, advocacy groups like Somos Un Pueblo Unido are making efforts to get the Latino vote out. Recently, we reported on Somos’ efforts to help permanent immigrant residents apply for U.S. citizenship and vote in next year’s elections. Getting new people to register to vote marks one big step, but it doesn’t guarantee they’ll actually cast a ballot. Those who say they want to make Roswell’s conservative politics more reflective of its growing Latino population stress that the ballot box is essential. Both Chaves County, which includes Roswell, and nearby Lea County are now majority Latino.