New Mexico Passes One-Stop and Same-Day Voter Registration Bill

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Last week, New Mexico’s legislature passed a sweeping registration bill that would bring one-stop and same-day voter registration to the Land of Enchantment. The Albuquerque Journal has more:

New Mexico could boost its voter turnout by a few percentage points under legislation awaiting action by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, analysts say.

The proposal – passed in the final days of the 2019 session – would clear the way for New Mexicans to register to vote at early-voting sites and on Election Day. The changes would be phased in, with Election Day registration taking effect in time for the 2022 election cycle…

In New Mexico, the voter rolls now close four weeks before Election Day. Anyone who registers after that date can’t participate until the following election cycle.

Senate Bill 672 – co-sponsored by three Democratic legislators – would phase in same-day registration for statewide elections. The governor has until April 5 to decide whether to approve the proposal.

It would allow people to register to vote during the 28-day blackout period, under certain circumstances. They could go to the county clerk’s office and could register up to the Saturday before the election.

Counties would have the option of allowing voter registration at early-voting sites, too. But they would have to staff each site with a clerk’s office employee to serve as the registrar.

Voters would be permitted to register and cast their ballots immediately.

The rules would go into effect this year, though no statewide election is scheduled until 2020.

Registration on Election Day itself would be permitted for statewide elections after that – the first of which is scheduled in 2022.

Voters could also use the same-day registration system to update their voter information, but they would be prohibited from changing their party affiliation during a primary election.

As you might expect, there was a partisan difference of opinion over the proposal:

Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, an Albuquerque Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, said the phase-in period allows county clerks to prepare for the change.

“I think it’s a good model,” he said in an interview. “It’s an opportunity to roll this out in a way that makes sense.”

Lawmakers passed the proposal largely along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

Opponents questioned whether the legislation would be an administrative burden on county clerks, among other concerns.

Rep. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, said a voter who isn’t engaged enough to register by the four-week deadline may not have a good handle on what’s on the ballot.

“I don’t know if they’d understand the topics, the subjects, even the difference in candidates,” Gallegos said during the House debate. “There’s a lot of issues there that take a lot more of a deep dive into the topic than just a spur-of-the-moment vote.”

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, strongly supported the bill. Her office said protections are in place to keep people from voting at more than one location.

The bill is is still awaiting the Governor’s signature, but if it’s enacted – as expected – it will bring significant changes to New Mexico almost immediately as state and local offices adjust to the new procedures. That process rarely goes perfectly – but New Mexico will have the benefit of other states’ experiences as implementation continues. Stay tuned!

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