House Bill 4 will make it easier for more New Mexico residents to exercise their right to vote. More specifically, the bill 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.
All of them will have the cumulative effect of making it easier to run for office and easier for more people to participate in the election process. They will undoubtedly result in an increase in voter turnout for future elections.
Which is why Republicans are so eager to stop these changes. They will, of course, claim that 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 that 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 Duran 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.
That’s just one of many examples of claims of voter fraud that were later proven to be untrue. And, I won’t even try to address all of the outrageous and preposterous claims raised by the former president and his supporters.
I don’t know if Democrats do better in elections where there is a high voter turnout. But it is clear that one party wants to make it easier to vote and the other party wants to make it harder. It’s safe to assume that they both have their reasons.
Walter Rubel can be reached at email@example.com.
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