New Mexicans should be able to register to vote online by the end of this week, as the Secretary of State’s Office is putting the final touches on new regulations that will allow the option for the first time in state history. Online voter registration has surged in popularity in recent years and is already available in 26 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New Mexico is one of three additional states – Oklahoma and Florida are the others – implementing such a system. Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill, approved by legislators during this year’s 60-day legislative session, that mandated online voter registration, among other changes, and officials in the Secretary of State’s Office have been working to have it ready to go by Friday – more than a year before their deadline.
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.
Voters in Bernalillo County can expect an incredibly crowded ballot this fall – so crowded, in fact, that election workers are struggling to find room for municipal questions. The city of Albuquerque holds its own regular elections in odd-numbered years, though city councilors occasionally ask the county to add a city item or two to county ballots in even-numbered years. This year, however, the city might seek space for four or more questions on the November ballot, including proposals to change how the police chief is hired and to reduce marijuana penalties. But the ballot is already stuffed with federal and state races, plus retention elections for state and metropolitan judges.
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.
It may be an American’s right to vote on Election Day, but that right was hampered in last November’s elections by excessively long waits, a limited number of voting machines, a lack of Spanish-speaking translators and — in one case — an “intimidating” police presence at the polls. Those were just a few of the stories that people told legislative members of both the House Voter and Election Committee and the Senate Rules Committee on Saturday morning. The special session was dedicated to hearing testimony on unexpected and unpleasant challenges facing New Mexico voters in last November’s general election. “There’s no such thing as a perfect election, but it’s always troubling to hear of issues on Election Day,” said Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who has served as county clerk for Bernalillo County since 2007. She was one of about 20 people offering first-hand testimony — and also the only county clerk to show up for the event.
Ralph Perdomo wasn’t given his right to vote; he had to earn it. The 63-year old Belize native came to the United States in the 1960s and didn’t become a citizen until decades later. “I had to go through a lot of hoops to get my citizenship,” Perdomo said. “It wasn’t easy.” Perdomo’s been an enthusiastic voter and was excited to cast his ballot with his girlfriend on day one of expanded early voting. But when the two got to a voting center at Paseo del Norte NW and Golf Course Road, Perdomo got a rude surprise. “When they pulled up my name, it showed I had already voted, and I definitely, no way, no how did I vote,” Perdomo said.
The husband of a campaign staffer for a Republican candidate for Senate in New Mexico is under investigation for allegedly committing a felony by registering the couple’s dog to vote as part of a stunt to show how easy it could be to commit voter registration fraud. The anonymous man in the sweatshirt and hat playing with his Labrador Buddy in a local television piece? That’s Thomas Tolbert. He’s married to Heather Wade, a staffer for former Rep. Heather Wilson’s senate campaign, as first revealed by the liberal group ProgressNow NM. The Smoking Gun got a hold of the voter registration card belonging to “Buddy” and said the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office was focusing on Tolbert. Bryce Dustman, Wilson’s campaign manager, said in a statement to TPM that they learned about the allegations from the media.
Requiring voters to present photo identification before casting ballots at the polls would disenfranchise many New Mexicans and would especially affect minorities, the elderly, students and people with disabilities, said several panelists Monday at a League of Women Voters panel discussion. Panel members urged lawmakers to vote against any photo ID bill introduced in the Legislature. However, they probably were preaching to the choir — as only Democratic legislators showed up to the event. Democrats in New Mexico, and elsewhere in the country, tend to be against voter-ID legislation, while Republicans tend to support it.