Voter access measures head to governor’s desk
Proposals emerged as priorities this year
SANTA FE — Legislation making it a crime to intimidate election workers and expanding automatic voter registration is on its way to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham after winning House approval Monday.
The proposals — contained in separate bills — emerged this year as priorities for Democratic legislative leaders.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said the measures would increase protection for people on the front lines carrying out elections and make it easier for New Mexicans to vote.
“As federal voting bills are stymied in Congress and voting rights come under attack across the nation, states like New Mexico must step up to protect these rights,” said Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat.
The automatic voter registration proposal, House Bill 4, includes provisions to establish a Native American Voting Rights Act, outlining requirements for secure ballot drop boxes, and restores felons’ rights to vote when they leave incarceration, rather than after the completion of probation or parole.
It also would automate voter registration during some MVD transactions and establish a permanent absentee voter list.
Republicans staunchly opposed the measure at every step, but the House granted final approval to the legislation on a 42-25 vote Monday.
The bill prohibiting intimidation won much broader support, passing the House on a 62-1 vote.
The legislation, Senate Bill 43, would add the secretary of state, county clerks and their employees to the election code’s prohibition on threats designed to interfere with the impartial administration of elections.
In New Mexico, officials have reported racist mail, being followed and other threats. In 2020, Toulouse Oliver went into hiding for a period of time after her personal information was published on a website called “Enemies of the People,” with targets over officials’ photos.
Sen. Katy Duhigg, an Albuquerque Democrat and co-sponsor of both election bills, said the measures will address real threats to election workers and break down systemic obstacles to voting.
“Better access for more eligible voters means higher levels of participation and engagement,” she said, “and that is a great thing for our democratic process. I’m so pleased these two pieces of legislation have passed and look forward to seeing them signed into law by the governor.”