State Rep. Eliseo Alcon held up his right hand where everyone in the room could see it and squeezed his thumb and forefinger tightly together. It was his demonstration to show exactly how negligible the problem of voter fraud is in New Mexico, in his estimation. Alcon, D-Milan, summed up the objections several groups had expressed Saturday to two proposals that would require voters to present identification documents before casting ballots. Opponents argued that the legislation would chill participation in elections — particularly among women, minority groups and senior citizens — when its aim is to thwart voter fraud, an activity that there’s scant evidence of in the state. “Neither one of these bills do anything but hurt a small percentage of people” who are eligible to vote but don’t possess identification cards with photos, Alcon said. But neither critics of the proposals nor New Mexico’s Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who backed the more rigid of the two plans considered by the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee, got their way.
The committee, on a 6-5 party-line vote with Republicans in favor, advanced House Bill 61, the softer of the two proposals. It would require voters to verify their identities, but would allow a broad range of documents to accomplish that. For instance, expired driver’s licenses, identification papers issued by Native American tribes that don’t include photos, student IDs and records from the Motor Vehicle Department database would satisfy the requirement. It moves on to the House Judiciary Committee next.
The more stringent measure that Duran supported, House Bill 340, sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, went down on an 8-3 vote. It would have required voters to present a valid picture ID.