By House Republican Leader Jim Townsend, (R-Artesia)

The right to vote is so fundamental to our basic freedoms that is it essential for all New Mexicans to understand why efforts, either intentionally or unintentionally, that undermine the integrity of the voting process must always be vigorously opposed. Contrary to what some Democratic Party activists claim, fighting to preserve the validity and honesty of every voter’s ballot is not part of some new, grand conspiracy to deny certain people from voting. Rather, it is an attempt to ensure that everyone is following the rules of the election process and that no one candidate or political party achieves an unfair advantage.

Ensuring our electoral process is fair and honest should be a priority for all candidates and political parties. The fact that there have been efforts in our nation’s history (by all sides of the political spectrum) to deny some people the right to vote or to “stuff the ballot box” to help achieve political power should be reason enough to reinforce the notion that free and open elections are an essential ingredient to our self-governing system. In other words, supporting efforts to preserve and/or expand voting integrity should never be viewed as a partisan issue.

Unfortunately, this idealistic vision of both major political parties working together to maintain the sanctity of the voting booth quickly evaporates as the next election quickly approaches. In fact, there is currently an effort underway in our state to re-shape our voting system so special interest groups can usurp the rights of voters in order to expand their own political power.

Under the guise of the current public health emergency, there is a coordinated attempt to create an all-mail-in ballot system for future elections. No one should confuse a mail-in ballot with an absentee ballot, there are substantial differences. Under absentee voting, registered voters must request a ballot with proof of voter eligibility, and then return that ballot to the county clerk to be counted. However, in a mail-in election, country clerks would simply send ballots to every registered voter based on where their address is listed, even if they did not request a ballot.

Anyone who understands the inaccuracy of New Mexico’s voter registration rolls will tell you the addresses associated with a county’s set of registered voters are a mess at best. Tens of thousands of ballots will be sent to addresses where the voter no longer resides which could result in thousands of registered voters never receiving a proper ballot, or equally troubling, people could vote under another person’s name. This proposed system of mail-in ballots does nothing to strengthen our voting rights or improve the integrity of the voting process. However, it does jeopardize the people’s belief that the election is being conducted in a fair and honest fashion with no one being able to game the final outcome.

The ongoing spread of COVID-19 deserves our constant attention to protect ourselves, our families, our neighbors, and others within our community- especially older New Mexicans who are particularly vulnerable to its potentially devastating effects. These extremely challenging times should not be hijacked by one political party in order to gain an electoral advantage to quench their thirst for political power. It’s time for the Governor, the Secretary of State, and Legislative leaders to assure all New Mexicans that they will not allow this travesty to move forward. Instead, let’s have a bipartisan effort to conduct our June 2 primary with an all absentee ballot process that will protect voters’ rights, the overall integrity of the ballot box and protect voters from health risks at the same time.

Live from Silver City

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