Proposed changes to the state Constitution expanding when school elections can be held and modernizing language about who can vote failed to get the required 75 percent of the vote statewide, so they weren’t adopted. Or were they? In an unusual court challenge, the League of Women Voters is asking the state Supreme Court to rule that amendments that won majority approval in 2008, 2010 and 2014 – but failed to hit the 75 percent mark – are actually in effect. Changing most sections of the state Constitution requires the approval of only a simple majority of voters. But four sections, dealing with elections and with the educational rights of Spanish-speaking children, require a 75 percent approval.
New Mexico: House OKs voter ID bill that was previously blocked in committee | The Santa Fe New Mexican
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.
The House voted to approve a voter ID bill after three hours of debate, the latest in a long line of Republican priorities that have passed this session. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, would require voters to present a form of identification when voting in person or by mail. The legislation passed on a 37-29 vote. While presenting the bill Brown said her aim was to prevent voter fraud no matter how prevalent it is. She argued that if laws were written based on how often crimes are committed, many current laws would be non-existent. “Frequency is not the test,” she said. Brown went on to say, “Some people say voter ID is a barrier, I say it’s a guardrail.” House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, offered a floor amendment that would lessen some of the identification requirements. Egolf told the body that the amendment would avoid disenfranchising voters by allowing less stringent requirements for voter identification.
The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee voted to pass one bill related to voter ID, while the more strict version was tabled. However, lawmakers on the panel hinted that portions of the stricter bill will appear in the next version of the legislation that passed. The committee saw two different bills related to voter ID on Saturday in a lengthy hearing. The first—called a compromise bill by sponsors Rep. James Smith, R-Sandia Park, and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque—passed on a party-line 6-5 vote with Republicans in favor. The other, a more strict voter ID bill—was sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad—was tabled on an 8-3 vote, with three Republicans voting against it.
A piece of legislation that would put the decennial redistricting in New Mexico in the hands of an independent redistricting commission instead of the state legislature and governor failed in a Senate committee. “This is big,” Sen. Bill O’Neill said in reference to the changes the legislation would make. “This is huge. This is seismic.” The Senate Rules Committee voted overwhelmingly to table the bill, but not all because they disagreed with the bill itself or the sentiments the sponsor said brought him to introduce the legislation. The legislation is that “both the legislature and the executive do not make the final determination on the lines when it comes to redistricting,” according to O’Neill. “Rather an independent commission makes that final decision.
New Mexico: Secretary of State withholds support for voter ID bill that doesn’t require photos | Farmington Daily Times
Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who was re-elected in November after stressing her support for a photo identification requirement at polling places, is not supporting a bipartisan voter ID bill crafted by a Republican House member and a Democratic senator. Instead, she favors a more restrictive bill. In a memo issued Thursday, titled “Secretary of State’s Office 2015 Legislative Priorities,” Duran’s staff wrote that House Bill 61, sponsored by Rep. Rep. Jim Smith, R-Sandia Park, “allows for something less than full photo voter ID.” A yet-to-be-introduced bill by Republican Rep. Cathrynn Brown of Carlsbad, however, “does propose full photo ID,” according to the memo, which said Duran’s office “worked with Rep. Brown on the drafting of her bill.” Brown said Friday that her bill is still in the drafting stage. Smith is the newly appointed chairman of the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee — to which all voter ID bills will be referred.
Voter identification — requiring voters to show some kind of government issued photo ID card at the ballot box — was the biggest issue in the recent campaign for secretary of state. That debate will continue in the Legislature as a Sandia Park Republican has pre-filed a bill that would make photo identification a condition to vote. Rep. Jim Smith, who introduced a voter ID bill in 2012, said Monday that his House Bill 61 is designed to verify voters, not to disenfranchise voters — as opponents of voter ID have claimed about previous bills. In the past, voter ID bills normally get voted down along party lines in the first committee hearing. But with Republicans controlling the House for the first time in more than 60 years, there is an excellent chance that a voter ID bill will make it out of committee and pass the full House. While intense opposition from Democrats to HB 61 can be expected, the bill has the support of at least one Democratic senator.
Election workers in all 33 counties were recounting ballots Thursday in the close race for state land commissioner, in the first such statewide recount. Results were not expected until next week. The contest between Republican Aubrey Dunn and Democratic Land Commissioner Ray Powell was so close it triggered a recount under a 2008 state law. Dunn won by just over 700 votes out of nearly 500,000 cast. At least one county, Quay, finished Thursday, while some counties may need to work into the weekend. Bernalillo County, with the biggest chunk of votes – more than 173,000 – is scheduled to wrap up on Monday.
Recently, the Pew Center on the States gave New Mexico a composite (2008/2010) rating of 19th in the nation for election administration. While this is much higher than most state-by-state comparisons featuring the Land of Enchantment, we still clearly have more work to do to improve our election processes. Correspondingly, the 2013 New Mexico Legislature provided a wonderful opportunity for our state to move forward and modernize the election process. Several pieces of legislation progressed with the intent of improving how we conduct elections in New Mexico. A few of them are even now awaiting the governor’s signature. In 2012, many counties in our state became national models for how to efficiently and effectively run elections, while at the same time streamlining processes and saving money, by conducting Election Day vote centers. While these counties are to be praised for their successes, other counties struggled with the new system and many voters had bad experiences at the polls.
What started out as a review of 37 cases of possible voter fraud has mushroomed into a massive investigation by the State Police of some 64,000 cases. The Secretary of State’s Office, headed by newly elected Republican Dianna Duran, has turned over truckloads of voter records for the State Police to review.
Daniel Ivey-Soto, executive director of the organization that represents New Mexico’s 33 county clerks, has derided the investigation as a “64,000-record fishing expedition.” We disagree.
In fact, we’d like to see the investigation expanded further still, if that’s what it takes to finally bring resolution to an issue that has festered for far too long, casting doubt — justified or not — on our electoral process. And, while Ivey-Soto thinks the clerks would be better positioned to conduct such an investigation, we believe only a thorough and complete review by the State Police will be seen as credible.
New Mexico State Police will review a staggering 64,000 voter cases to determine if any fraud has occurred in recent elections. Public Safety Director Gorden Eden outlined the scope of the investigation during an interview last week. He said the voter files were turned over to state police by Secretary of State Dianna Duran.
Duran, a Republican, publicly told legislators in March that her staff had uncovered 37 instances of possible voter fraud, though she said her investigation had only begun.
That small stack of what Duran called “questionable” cases has turned into a mountain of files for police to pore over. Duran said her staff had flagged tens of thousands of voter records that needed “further review” by criminal investigators.