In the past, it was almost an annual ritual in the New Mexico House of Representatives: Republicans would introduce bills to require most voters to show photo identification at the polls, and Democrats would vote them down in committee. But early Tuesday morning, what would have been impossible before the GOP took control of the House in the last election actually happened: The House passed a voter ID bill. At about 1:30 a.m., after a three-hour debate, the House voted 36-26 along party lines to pass House Bill 340, sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad. It now goes to the Democrat-controlled Senate, where it is bound to have a tougher time.
Brown and other supporters say the bill is necessary to guard against voter fraud. Democrats counter that voter fraud is extremely rare and that requiring identification tends to affect minorities, older voters and younger voters. Voter ID was the central issue of last year’s race for secretary of state. Incumbent Republican Dianna Duran, an advocate of voter ID laws (and a supporter of Brown’s bill) defeated Democrat Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who opposes such laws.
Just a few weeks ago, HB 340 appeared to be dead. The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on Feb. 21 voted 8-3 to table the bill. At the same meeting, the committee voted along party lines to adopt a less restrictive voter ID bill, HB 61, sponsored by Rep. Jim Smith, R-Sandia Park, and co-sponsored by a Democrat, Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto of Albuquerque.