The effort was to add an amendment to a loosely-related bill — one that would increase voter access in Chaparral, where long lines plagued the area. The amendment was tabled 38-31.
The final bill, sponsored by Rep. Nate Cote, D-Las Cruces, would require an early voting site for a population center of more than 1,500 residents that is more than 50 miles from the nearest early voting site. The bill passed on a 38-31 vote.
The Secretary of State’s office was not on board with the legislation.
In the fiscal impact report, Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s office wrote, “In future elections, all that needs to happen is that
Precinct 1 and Precinct 41 should be separated into two distinct polling places with two separate precinct boards. These combined precincts voted only 294 and 255 voters respectively on Election Day, a very small number by statewide standards. The creation of a separate voting site would waste precious election funds. The solution is simply using two separate polling places with two separate precinct boards.”
Cote hailed the passage of the unchanged bill in a statement after the vote.
“Our job is to protect our citizen’s right to vote,” said Cote. “House Bill 524 will make it easier for people who have had to travel long distances to voter early or have ended up waiting in lines for hours to vote on Election Day. I was surprised to see this attempt to expand access to voting, turn into a debate on Voter ID, but I am glad a majority of the Representatives in the House choose to expand access to the polls not limit it.”
The real fireworks, however, occurred on the amendment that Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, attempted to have put on the bill.
New Mexico Capitol Report:
Debate among House members lasted about two hours, mostly because Rep. Paul Bandy tried to replace Cote’s bill with one to require government-issued identification to vote.
Bandy, R-Aztec, said Albuquerque for seven years has had a voter ID law for city elections, and it had worked without complaint. He offered a substitute bill to require voter IDs for state elections.
Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said Bandy’s attempt to hijack Cote’s bill would have made it more difficult and more expensive for older people, low-income people and rural residents to vote.
Voter ID is a hot button issue in New Mexico, although efforts to institute it in the state legislature have failed annually. Bills that would require photo ID have been tabled in committee over fears that it would disenfranchise poor and elderly voters who may not have access to photo ID.
Democrats have noted that no one has been able to prove that there is widespread voter fraud that would necessitate voter ID. The Secretary of State, a Republican, has tried to prove voter fraud but a report found much less alleged voter fraud than Duran originally declared. None have been charged over the alleged voter fraud.
One man was arrested for attempting to vote twice in 2012 — a Republican poll challenger who declared he was “testing the system.”
Photo by whiteafrican, Flickr