The Associated Press
Updated: June 11, 2020 06:21 AM
Created: June 11, 2020 06:19 AM
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s Democratic governor wants the Legislature to wade into potentially volatile issues of election procedure and police accountability during a special session next week that was initially scheduled for budget matters.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Wednesday that she’ll broaden the scope of the session to include possible election reform amid concerns about voter access in ballot-tallying delays in New Mexico’s June 2 primary. She also said the Legislature could mandate body cameras for all law enforcement agencies in response to protests against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
“It’s possible in a special session that we have a requirement that every law enforcement entity — so police departments, sheriffs, State Police, corrections — everyone has to have a body camera. We want to know what’s going on. ... We want there to be transparency. We want the public to be more confident.”
The first-term governor last week announced the creation of a council on racial justice to examine solutions to institutionalized discrimination. She went farther Wednesday, opening the possibility of mandatory body cameras.
“We should capture this moment,” Lujan Grisham said. “This is another civil rights movement in this country.”
State Attorney General Hector Balderas this week backed the creation of a state requirement for police body cameras and a ban on chokeholds, as state public defenders urged the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office to mandate cameras for its deputies.
Lujan Grisham also expressed interest in adding emergency components to the state election code to ensure voter access during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It could either be extending the time for absentee ballots, which we know is an issue and continues to be an issue as we see how many are coming through the mail,” she said. “It could be an emergency mail-in election system just related to COVID, just for the general election in November.”
Wary of coronavirus risks, the majority of voters shifted to absentee balloting in the state’s primary, as participation swelled to more than 400,000 votes from about 320,000 in the 2016 presidential primary. Local election officials struggled to quickly tally the torrent of absentee ballots — with the count stretching for five days in Santa Fe County.
The voter advocacy group Common Cause New Mexico has expressed concern about mail deliver delays in the absentee balloting process and access to traditional polls, especially in Native American communities with lockdown restrictions related to the coronavirus.
Democratic Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto of Albuquerque has said he is drafting legislation on voting procedures for the special session without disclosing more details.
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