Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Thursday, the first anniversary of the U.S. Capitol insurrection, she plans to push for a voting rights act in New Mexico similar to proposed federal legislation that has stalled in the U.S. Senate.
The Governor’s Office issued a news release introducing a proposal Lujan Grisham and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver are drafting, with a goal of protecting and expanding voting rights. The proposal would increase the state’s early voting period through the Sunday before Election Day, make Election Day a state holiday, create a permanent absentee voter list and allow residents who do not have an identification card issued from the Motor Vehicle Division to register online using their Social Security number.
The proposal also would extend the timeline for mailing ballots to voters to 35 days before an election and would give Native American communities more time to request alternative voting sites.
“Protecting voting rights is essential to upholding our democracy and ensuring New Mexicans’ voices are heard,” Lujan Grisham said in the news release.
“On this somber anniversary of the January 6 Capitol insurrection, an anti-democratic attempt to overturn a free and fair election, we are reminded that it is more important than ever to safeguard access to the ballot box,” she continued. “While voting rights are under attack across the country, New Mexico is taking every action to protect and expand them.”
The move comes as U.S. Senate Republicans continue to block efforts to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, legislation that would give the federal government more control over state elections. Senate Democrats have said they will find a way to break a GOP filibuster on the bill by Jan. 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
New Mexico’s 2022 legislative session begins a day later.
While the main focus of the 30-day session will be the state budget for fiscal year 2023, the governor has the right to place any item she favors on the call.
Nora Meyers Sackett, a spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham, wrote in an email the Governor’s Office expects “sponsors to be finalized soon” for the voting rights measure. “We’re working closely with the Legislature on this initiative and it has the support of legislative leadership.”
Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, a member of the House of Representatives’ State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee, said Thursday he supports the initiative and would sponsor such legislation if he were asked.
“These are needed reforms to ensure that New Mexico citizens have equal access to the ballot,” Ely said. “It’s what every state should be doing, and I’m very happy that governor and secretary of state are leading the charge on this message.”
Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, another member of the committee, said he didn’t have enough information about the proposal yet to determine if he would support it.
“All I have are these bullet points,” based on information the governor released Thursday, he said. “I don’t know what the language in the
bill will say.”
Nibert said, “We all want to have a voting system that makes it easy and accessible for electors to participate in the process. But we also want to have confidence that it’s secure and that my ballot is going to count the same as anybody else’s ballot.
“The trick for us is to make sure that, even as we try to make it as easy and convenient as possible, that we still have in place these security measures that give us confidence that the system is being handled properly,” he added. “I would look at the governor’s proposal and see if it meets both of those criteria.”
Nayomi Valdez, public policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said her agency is in “full support” of the voting rights initiative.
“At a time when many of our ACLU colleagues across the country are fighting an uphill battle on this issue, it’s the right move to double down on efforts here to expand voting rights access,” she said.