House Advances Bill Modernizing New Mexico’s Voter Registration System, Moves To State Senate

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New Mexico Roundhouse. Photo by Arin McKenna/Valley Daily Post

House Advances Bill Modernizing New Mexico’s Voter Registration System, Moves To State Senate

SANTA FE ― A bill to modernize the process how New Mexicans register to vote or update their voting registration was passed by the House on a 44-22 vote last Tuesday.

“Automatic voter registration is a common sense approach that opens access to voting which in turn improves our democracy,” said Natalie Tennant, Manager for State Advocacy at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. This action by the House of Representatives puts the state on the path to a more secure, accurate and accessible process  and puts New Mexico on the forefront nationally as a leader in election reform.”

House Bill 84 (HB 84), sponsored by Rep. Ely (D- District 23), Rep. Sarinana (D- District-21), and Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D – District 36) calls for more state agencies, like the Motor Vehicle Department of Revenue and Taxation, as an option for New Mexicans to register or update their voter registration.

“It’s time to remove outdated hurdles to the most fundamental part of our democracy: voting,” J.D. Mathews, State Political Director of NM Working Families said. “Modernizing our voter registration system means creating a process that is secure, efficient, and upholds our ideal that voting is a sacred right for all Americans. If we want a healthy and modern representative government it requires participation from all eligible voters”.

Under the proposed bill, eligible voters across the state could update their voter registration while conducting business with a state agency. The Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) is an exemplary location for many New Mexicans, as this is frequented on a more regular basis to obtain or renew their vehicle registration and/or obtain ID cards.

“For many individuals and families that live in rural New Mexico, the current voter registration process is inaccessible due to the lack of infrastructure, road quality, and limited internet access.” Oriana Sandoval, CEO for the Center for Civic Policy said. “The process outlined in HB 84 expands a system already in place by the Secretary of State Office, the bill simply looks to expand the accessibility for eligible voters to maintain an updated and accurate voter roll, increasing the security and integrity of our election system.”

House Bill 84 will streamline voter registration by switching from an “opt-in” to an “opt-out” process, allowing all eligible New Mexicans to be registered to vote, while allowing for those who do not wish to participate in elections to decline their registration.

“We applaud the NM House for passing HB 84 to make certain our elections are secure, convenient and accessible for all eligible voters,” Heather Ferguson, Executive Director for Common Cause New Mexico said. “Democracy works best when our citizens participate, and this legislation ensures New Mexicans will be securely registered to vote”.

In addition to creating a secure system that safeguards voter information for New Mexicans, modernizing our system is also about being cost effective. It is estimated to save the state money since county clerks will no longer have to manually process voter registration cards. The reduction in manually processed voter registration cards will result in decreased human error. Thus, making the overall voter registration process safer and more effective at ensuring updated and accurate voter rolls.