Landmark 'New Mexico Voting Rights Act' Stalls in Senate
Monday, February 7, 2022
Amid support and criticism, a marathon public hearing and debate over a bill to bolster voting access ended in the New Mexico Roundhouse Friday without resolution.
The bill would expand online voter registration, including further protections for Native voters, designate election day as a holiday, and create a permanent, voluntary absentee ballot request list.
During the nine-hour hearing that included public comment, Jacob Vigil - research and policy analyst with New Mexico's Voices for Children - urged lawmakers to take bold action.
"New Mexico is already a model for running fair and secure elections," said Vigil. "And this year you have the opportunity to upgrade our state's election practices and protect the freedom to vote to make our state's democracy more inclusive and representative."
After adopting a series of amendments, the chair of the Senate Rules Committee postponed a vote on the bill, saying it needed more time for review. That will need to happen fast, as only 13 days remain in the short 2022 session.
A provision to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in school and city elections was eliminated by the close of Friday's hearing. But Isabella Baker - field organizer with the family-activist group Forward Together - offered several reasons it deserved consideration.
"Sixteen- and 17-year-olds are held accountable to laws created for adults every day," said Baker. "Their paychecks are taxed, they can drive, they can be tried as an adult in court in some cases, and so much more."
Maria Coronado is a community organizer in Las Cruces who spoke in support of the bill and reminded legislators how difficult the past few years have been for immigrant communities.
"The attack on our rights, and even our existence in this country have been painful and infuriating," said Coronado. "One of the things that has given me hope throughout all of this is using my right to vote."
Critics of the bill argued it would undermine election confidence, with many adamant that those younger than 18 should not be allowed to vote.
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