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.
One successful bill, in particular, is focused improving the Election Day experience across our entire state. Rep. Nate Cote’s HB 219 ensures adequate staffing and equipment at Election Day precincts. The purpose of this bill is to prevent the long lines and delays experienced by voters in a handful of locations during the general election.
Unfortunately, two other important bills did not make it to the governor’s desk. HB 524 (Cote) and SB 356 (Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto) would have provided for two important solutions: First, Cote’s HB 524 would have required an early voting location in remote but significantly populated parts of the state where the next-closest early voting site was more than 50 miles away. Ivey-Soto’s SB 356 would have put a formula in place to ensure adequate check-in stations at vote centers, which would have prevented problems like those experienced on Election Day in Rio Rancho.
These bills all make clear and simple fixes to our election laws that will benefit all voters from across the state. Their content is nonpartisan and uncontroversial and provides for a “safety net” so that every voter in the state has a similar, positive experience at the polls.
Unfortunately, due to the backlog of legislation in the final days of the session, and some unfortunate partisan politics that sought to tack on controversial policy amendments to these bills, both HB 524 and SB 356 did not make it out of the Legislature. I am hopeful that next year the goal of implementing good policy will outweigh the need to score political points.
Much more positively, we also have the opportunity to begin to move into the 21st Century with our voter registration system. Two bills, in particular, will help increase our voter registration system’s accuracy and, by doing so, its integrity.
Full Article: » We should set standard in election systems | ABQ Journal.