Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Foreign Secretary Maggie Toulouse Oliver are using this upcoming legislative term – a 30-day budget-focused term – to push several dubious vote changes under the politically popular guise of voting rights protection.
Some of the suggestions are valid: felons who have paid their debts to society shouldn’t have to navigate a cumbersome system to restore their voting rights The ability to extend early voting until the Sunday before election day cuts a break for procrastinators .
But the rest of the Democratic proposals need real debate at best, and the rubbish bin of history at worst.
Among the misguided proposals disguised as “reform”:
• Allowing 16 year olds to vote in local elections is a non-runner. The 26th amendment, ratified by the states in 1971, lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. It is noteworthy that the proposal to lower the age to 16 would only apply to local elections; The U.S. Constitution doesn’t allow 16- or 17-year-olds to vote in federal elections.
In 2016, the state legislature passed and Republican Governor Susana Martinez signed a provision allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections when they turn 18 in the general election. That’s low enough.
We have heard for years that young minds are not mature until they are 25, but we want to put elections with nine-digit budgets in the hands of 16-year-olds?
If the goal is to increase voter turnout, this is what lawmakers did when they consolidated the local elections. In the mayor, city and school board elections of Albuquerque in November, around 22,000 more people voted than in the previous mayoral election. In fact, the turnout was higher than any other mayoral campaign in the city in at least 20 years.
One cynic would point out that this proposal comes just weeks after union-backed candidates lost three of four controversial seats on the Albuquerque public school education committee. A pragmatist would ask, why not open primaries to independent voters 18 and over instead?
• The reintroduction of straight ticket voting would be a step backwards. There is no reason to do so, aside from partisan efforts to allow voters to cast their votes like robots. Even if a voter chooses a direct-elected list of candidates, they still have to decide how to vote on bond issues, judicial withholdings, proposed constitutional amendments, and non-partisan races. We should encourage an informed electorate, not lazy votes led by party leaders.
• The proposal to make election day a public holiday must be given more concrete form. New Mexico is already requiring employers to give workers paid time off for election. And if we are making Election Day a public holiday, why should you expand early voting? Ditto for extending the schedule for indigenous governments to request alternate voting sites and revising the voter registration system at the Motor Vehicle Department – these last minute proposals have not yet been drafted and the meeting begins next week. Without details, it is unclear what is changing and whether it is better.
• The creation of a permanent postal voting list that would allow people to receive ballots in the mail without having to submit new applications, and the ability to sign up for online voting using their full social security number without an official government ID, opens the system to Gimmicks. We have all received mail for someone who does not live at our address, and Social Security numbers are routinely stolen.
• The extension of the deadline for the return of postal voting documents to the Friday after the election makes timely results a matter of fools. Focus on an early vote, not later and later results.
Toulouse Oliver, the state’s chief electoral officer, said the NM Voting Rights Act “gives us the chance to pass one of the most powerful voting laws in our state’s history”. The governor repeated this ambitious feeling.
And since their bills have not even been drafted and the 30-day session starts on Tuesday, that’s one more reason to wait for a 60-day session.
This editorial first appeared in the . It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than that of the authors.