ALBUQUERQUE — Voters in one of New Mexico’s booming oil and gas communities are set to decide on a measure that would require a photo ID in local elections in what is the latest battleground over requiring strict identification to cast ballots.
A special election in Hobbs next month to amend the city’s charter comes after a number of cities and states across the country have enacted similar voter ID measures despite objections from civil rights groups.
Supporters of the measures say the new laws would help eliminate potential in-person voter impersonation and increase public confidence in elections.
But civil rights groups say such laws disproportionately affect blacks, Latinos, senior citizens and the poor by unduly restricting voting and imposing unnecessary costs.
“These people just need to quit,” NAACP Hobbs Branch President Joseph Cotton said. “This is all about discouraging people from going out to vote.”
Organizers behind the Hobbs initiative, which resulted from a petition drive, say their efforts are part of a larger movement to enact voter ID legislation across the country and not because there were widespread voter irregularities in the southeastern New Mexico city.
“We’re not seeing a whole lot of fraud down here,” said Shon Williams, head of the Patriots of Lea County, one of the groups pushing for the change in Hobbs. “But if we get this passed here, we can get it passed in other cities and eventually get it statewide.”
Bob Wright, spokesman for the New Mexico Citizens Coalition, a group behind the petition, said the movement is a result of “national concern over the integrity of the vote.” The group is planning pushes in other New Mexico cities.
Albuquerque and Rio Rancho, two of the biggest cities in the state, already require photo ID for local elections. Previous efforts to get a statewide law have stalled in legislative committees.
In recent years, 34 states have passed laws requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Cotton said a coalition of black and Latino groups has launched a counter campaign aimed at convincing Hobbs residents that an ID requirement would affect turnout in future elections.
If the measure passes, voters will be required to show a photo ID during municipal elections. If voters don’t have identification, the city will provide it free of charge.
Meanwhile, recently re-elected Secretary of State Dianna Duran said she’ll again push state lawmakers to consider a voter ID law. She called the special election in Hobbs “encouraging.”
“Voter ID is one component of electoral integrity that municipalities can enact to provide integrity for their own elections, and I certainly hope the people of Hobbs take this opportunity to do so,” Duran said.