New Mexico voters will be able to go online to update their addresses and other information on state voter rolls — and eventually even register to vote online — under a bill that was signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez.
Backers of Senate Bill 643 — which sailed through the state Senate and the House of Representatives without a dissenting vote — say the new law will modernize the state’s voter registration system, help clean up the voter rolls and will make registration more convenient for voters. Martinez signed it on Friday.
“I’m thrilled with the final version [of the bill] and thrilled the governor signed it,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Lisa Torraco, R-Albuquerque, said in an interview Monday. “It really brings us ahead of other states.”
Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, also was enthusiastic about the success of the bill. “As far as important, nonpartisan consensus legislation on elections, this was a huge session,” he told The New Mexican on Monday. In addition to online registration and updating, Torraco’s bill was amended to roll in several other election bills — all sponsored or co-sponsored by Ivey-Soto.
“Paperless registration allows states to reach many under-registered populations, like college students who have regular access to Internet and are culturally comfortable conducting business online,” said Viki Harrison, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico. And, she added, “allowing people to update and register online ensures more eligible New Mexicans will be able to cast their ballot in elections.”
Torraco said allowing voters to update their addresses online will be a huge help to voters as well as county clerks and other election administrators. “People never think of updating their registrations with their new addresses when they move,” she said. “This makes it a lot easier and helps assure the voter rolls are up to date.”
Harrison, in an interview, said she only wishes that the electronic registration provisions would be implemented sooner than is called for in the new law. Under the law, the secretary of state has until Jan. 1, 2016, to implement a system by which a voter can update his registration information and until Jan. 1, 2017, to have a system in which a new voter can register via computer.
But only those who have valid New Mexico driver’s licenses or identification cards issued by the state Motor Vehicle Division will be able to register to vote or update information on the system. “That’s the security aspect of the bill,” Ivey-Soto said. “This will protect against someone in Pakistan from registering 100 times. You have to have an MVD record.” Voters who register or update by computer will have to supply their full New Mexico driver’s license number or state identification card number.
After Torraco’s bill cleared the House — on the final night of the legislative session — former state Sen. Rod Adair cheered its passage, writing on his New Mexico Political Journal blog that “New Mexicans got a form of photo voter ID after all.” He noted that the bill will allow the Motor Vehicle Division to include the photos from driver’s licenses and identification cards in the information the agency will provide for online voter registrations.
Ivey-Soto said Monday that there’s nothing in the bill requiring the MVD to provide photos. However, he said, there’s no language in the law that would prevent the agency from providing photos for the voter rolls.
Both Ivey-Soto and Torraco said that people who don’t have access to computers or don’t want to register online will still be able to register by filling out paper forms.
The final version of SB 643 includes the Uniform Military & Overseas Voters Act, which put all rules applying to ballots from military personnel and other overseas voters in one section in the state election code. Ivey-Soto said there also is a section that allows New Mexico first-responders who are helping out in fires, floods or other disasters out of state before an election to vote absentee.
It includes provisions that allow the secretary of state to compare state voter rolls with those of other states as well as with state and federal agencies, such as the Social Security Administration. The bill also provides cleanup language, advocated by the state’s county clerks.