Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Tom McDonald
Syndicated content 

Expanding voting good for NM

 

January 12, 2022



New Mexico’s 30-day session begins Jan. 18, and while its emphasis will be on the state budget, the governor can add to the legislative “call” and already has.

On the first anniversary of last year’s attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that she and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver will be pushing for voting rights legislation similar to what’s been languishing in Congress since last year. In the U.S. Capitol, Republicans are holding up the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, but here in New Mexico, they wield no such power, so passing our own version of such a bill is likely.

According to a Jan. 6 news release out of the governor’s office, New Mexico’s latest voting rights proposal will “protect and expand” our right to vote by adding more conveniences for registering and voting. Among other things, it would:

• Extend the early voting period through the Sunday before the election day, designate Election Day itself as a state holiday, and allow 16-year-olds to participate in local elections.

• Create a permanent absentee voter list to allow people to receive mailed ballots without having to request them every election.

• Allow individuals without Motor Vehicle Division-issued identification cards to register online using their Social Security number instead, while also improving automatic voter registration services through the MVD.

• Extend the timeline for mailing ballots to voters to 35 days before an election and the deadline for accepting ballots to 7 p.m. on the Friday after an election to accommodate for mail delivery times.

• Expand the timeline for indigenous nations, tribes and pueblos to request alternate voting sites.

• Allow nominating petitions and their signatures to be submitted electronically.

• Automatically restore the voting rights of those convicted of a felony who are not currently incarcerated.

• Create an option to vote a straight party ballot.

New Mexico’s lawmakers will need to consider the validity and safety of each provision in this proposed legislation. It deserves attention because of the dismal turnouts we’ve had in times past.

The United States is the world’s oldest democracy and yet, in years past, we’ve embarrassed ourselves with low turnouts. But an obvious exception to that came with the 2020 general election, when record numbers turned out, in part because of pandemic-inspired conveniences to early voting and voting by mail, and yet there’s a movement afoot to turn back these conveniences, thereby making it tougher for some people to vote.

But there’s also an effort to make the voting conveniences of 2020 permanent.

Expanding our processes to involve more people in our collective decisions would be a good thing, as long as it doesn’t skirt around the safeguards we have in place. And on those terms, let the debates begin.

Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at:

[email protected]

 
 

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