The push to require New Mexico voters to present some form of identification at the polls has long divided Democrats and Republicans, but one state senator is taking the debate in another direction. Senate Minority Whip William Payne introduced a proposal this week that calls for the state’s top elections officials to study the feasibility of bringing biometrics into the mix. That could mean anything from retinal scans to the thumbprint-imaging technology used to access smartphones. After hearing the same debate year after year, the Albuquerque Republican said he wanted to find a way to take some of the “venom” out of the argument that requiring photo identification would lead to voter suppression. “This could put to rest the criticism that voters cannot afford to produce reliable photo identification when they vote,” Payne said. “Everyone has an eyeball or thumb that could be scanned for identification. No need to produce a photo ID.”
While other countries have adopted biometrics for identification purposes, the idea has yet to take off in the U.S. Oklahoma was the first state last year to propose legislation that would require future voter ID cards to include photos as well as fingerprint images, but that measure stalled in committee.
Nearly three dozen states already have some form of voter ID requirements. But out of the hundreds of election-related pieces of legislation introduced in statehouses across the country so far this year, New Mexico is the only one considering any type of biometric voter ID measure.
“Voter ID is a perennial question,” said Wendy Underhill with the National Conference of State Legislatures. “The idea about working with biometrics is a relatively new idea.”