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In last week’s column I explained why I think the secretary of state should not interfere in an effort to force a referendum on six bills passed this year by the state Legislature. This week I’d like to look at two of the bills being targeted.
House Bill 4 will make it easier for more New Mexico residents to exercise their right to vote. More specifically, it will automatically register voters through the Motor Vehicle Division, bringing more eligible voters onto the rolls. It will restore the voting rights of convicted felons who have served their time and want to play a role in shaping their community. It will make it easier for voters to receive absentee ballots. It will allow for same-day voter registration at all polling places. And, it requires that there be at least two monitored, secure drop boxes for ballots in every county.
Senate Bill 180 will require training for election challengers and poll watchers sent by each party to watch the process. It will also allow for electronic signatures on nominating petitions; create an election security program; revise requirements for the impounding of ballots, audits, voting machine rechecks and recounts; revise election-related crimes; and authorize the Secretary of State’s Office to inspect taxpayer records for the purpose of maintaining voter registration records.
Some of these changes codify temporary reforms made during the Covid-19 pandemic. Others are clearly in response to the organized and concerted effort by former President Donald Trump and his followers to discredit our nation’s election system following his loss to Joe Biden in 2020.
They will undoubtedly result in an increase in voter turnout for future elections, which is why Republicans are so eager to stop them. They will, of course, claim voter fraud is their motivation. But there is simply no evidence to back up those claims.
In 2011, New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran claimed she could do what so many other GOP leaders before her (and since) could not - show concrete proof of massive voter fraud.
After a lengthy and costly review, Duran announced to the Legislature that she had found 117 foreign nationals who were illegally registered to vote in New Mexico. And, she claimed, 37 had fraudulently cast ballots in our elections.
All of this, she claimed, proved a “culture of corruption” in New Mexico elections, just as Republican Governor Susana Martinez was pushing for a new voter ID law.
Upon further review, Duran’s claims crumbled. When the ACLU sued to force her to show evidence for her claims, she could not. When they filed an Open Records Request, she refused. As a result, her office was forced to pay a $125,000 settlement.