Early voting registration bills quashed

By Steve Terrell: The Santa Fe New Mexican

Don’t count on being able to register to vote at early voting sites this year.

Two legislative committees effectively killed bills that would have allowed a voter to register right before casting a ballot at early voting sites or at the county clerk’s office when in-person absentee voting is allowed.

On Thursday, the House Voters and Elections Committee voted 7-5 to table HB123, sponsored by Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe.

That followed the Senate Judiciary Committee’s action — or rather, inaction — Wednesday night on SB161, sponsored by Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales. There were not enough votes to get a do-pass or a no-recommendation, so that bill is stuck in the committee. Steve Allen, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, which was backing both bills, said this means the bill almost certainly is dead.

“The conservatives, the Republicans prevailed,” Trujillo told a reporter after the vote, though he noted two Democrats on the Voters and Elections Committee also voted to table his bill.

Both Trujillo and Allen said there was a lot of misinformation flying around about them.

Opponents falsely claimed that the legislation would let people register on election day itself, Trujillo said. Those against the idea also raised the specter of the bill being the gateway to massive voter fraud and an influx of foreigners voting in the state.

The issue spurred opposition from state Tea Party activists, some of whom have showed up at the Capitol to protest the bills during this session.

Though the bill was mostly opposed by Republicans in the Legislature, Allen said the bills had the backing of county clerks from both political parties.

Trujillo said the bill had more stringent requirements for those who register during early voting than what is required for registration during the rest of the year. He said voter’s names would go immediately into the secretary of state’s voter data base to protect against people registering at multiple locations.

Allen said the bills were designed to encourage more participation in elections among young people and those who don’t get excited about an election until two weeks before election day.

Under current law, you must be registered to vote 28 days before an election in order to cast a ballot.

Last year the House approved a similar bill sponsored by Trujillo on a 40-27 mainly party-line vote. It died in the Senate.

Trujillo said Thursday he’ll introduce the bill next year. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said.