Aimed at Increasing Access to Early Voting Locations to Revive Voter ID
Santa Fe, NM – Voter ID legislation emerged today on the floor of the House of Representatives, when House Republicans attempted to hijack House Bill 524, “Alternative Voting Locations in Certain Areas,” introduced by Representative Nate Cote (D-Dona Ana & Otero-53). HB 524 will expand polling locations for voters who do not have easy access to early voting. The bill would fix vague language in state statute relating to when an early voting location is required. It will mandate an early vote location for a population center of more than 1500 voters, who have to travel more than 50 miles to the nearest early voting location.
Although repeated attempts to require voter identification have failed to pass in the House, House Republicans utilized the opportunity of the debate over HB 524, to attempt to revive voter ID legislation yet again. Even though there is no clear evidence of voter fraud, Republicans tried to mislead the House into passing legislation that would limit access to the polls for New Mexico’s elderly, low-income and Native Americans. Republicans chose to pursue legislation to disenfranchise voters, rather than support legislation aimed at expanding access to the polls.
Chairwoman of the House Voters and Elections Committee, Representative Mary Helen Garcia said “There has been the repeated concern from some people about voter ID, and we have addressed their concerns repeatedly. I am wondering why we are now repeating the same debate again, when we have already had it, over and over. Democrats do not support any legislation that will limit the ability to New Mexico’s elderly and low-income residents to vote.”
“My concern is since we passed the Voting Right Act during LBJ’s administration, it has been a constant struggle to up hold it,” said Representative Lucky Varela. “Even today parts of the voting right act are being challenged in the Supreme Court, however in New Mexico, we have a duty to protect a citizen’s right to vote, not limit it.”
The bill substitution introduced by Representative Paul Bandy (R- San Juan-3), was tabled with a vote of 38-31 and 1 absent. HB 524 did gain the approval of the House with a vote of 38-31 and 1 absent.
“Our job is to protect our citizen’s right to vote,” said Rep. Nate 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.”