New Mexico lawmakers debate voter protections, requirements

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SANTA FE, N.M. — State lawmakers in New Mexico are considering many proposals that would change laws surrounding voting.

House Bill 4, also known as the Voting Rights Protections Act, is proposing a lot of small changes – proposing automatic voter registration, allowing felons to vote after serving their sentence, increasing the number of polling places across the state, and declaring Election Day a school holiday.

The Democrat-sponsored bill was approved by the House and has already passed one Senate committee. However, most of the votes moving the bill forward have come down to party lines.

“I certainly hope that we can put forward good amendments to make this bill better, because there are many good parts of this bill, but a lot of parts that are very bad, that really could corrode our system,” said Rep. John Block, representing Otero County.

Block and other Republicans have put forward their own bills that address voting rights. One of Block’s bills, House Bill 110, would get rid of the long list of identification currently accepted at New Mexico polling places and replace it with only an MVD-issued driver’s license or ID card. This bill is still waiting to be heard by a committee.

Republicans have also called for the emergency creation of a Voter Education and Elections Task Force. House Bill 86 would create a task force that would study the current election system – from registration to counting absentee ballots – and even educate voters on the importance of keeping registration up to date and how to use online voting tools. This bill has yet to be heard in committee.

There are two very similar Democrat-backed bills making their way through both the House and the Senate – House Bill 54 and Senate Bill 73. Essentially, both bills would allow voters who are not registered with a majority party to still vote in primary elections, without declaring a party affiliation. Currently, only those registered with a party can vote in the primaries.

HB 54 has passed one committee and is waiting to be heard in the House Judiciary Committee. SB 73 has passed the Senate floor and is one step away from being voted on in the House.