Voting System & Voter Protection Bills Passed In 2023 Legislative Sessions
The Governor recently signed three Bills dealing with making voting secure and accessible to more New Mexicans. Many states are actively curtailing ease of access to voting stations for low income neighborhoods and minority groups (who traditionally vote for Democrats). We have the reverse here and that is refreshing. The three Bills that became law are:
- HB4: Voting Rights Protections
- SB43: Protection of Election Office and Employees from Intimidation
- SB180: Implementing a number of “fixes” to the administrative systems that process ballots and protect confidentiality.
Here is a summary of the highlights. The Bills are available on the Legislative Website https://www.nmlegis.gov/Calendar/Session. Click on the Legislation tab and then select Search by Number. You can also read the Fiscal Impact Report (FIR) by clicking on “Analysis” which provides a more detailed summary as well as estimated costs.
HB4: VOTING RIGHTS PROTECTIONS:
This Bill (now Law) has the following features. Various provisions of this Bill get implemented between 2023 and 2025 which is detailed in the FIR.
Here is a very high-level content summary.
- Expands Voter Registration Sites:
- Enacts Automatic Voter Registration when an individual applies for a driver’s license. (This will get more young people registered.)
- Voter Registration can also occur at all state agencies providing public assistance or services to people with disabilities.
- When changes of addresses are filed at the MVD, the Secretary of State’s Office will be notified so that the change is made to the Voter Registration data.
- Individuals can still register to vote on election day so long as they provide the necessary documentation that qualifies them to vote in that election.
- Individuals cannot change party affiliation at the time of voting in a primary election.
- Using [& misusing] Voter Data, Mailing Labels or Voter Lists. This provision makes it a felony to “knowing and willful selling, loaning, providing access to…voter date…for purposes prohibited by the Election Code.” It specifically prohibits the publication of these data on the internet.
- People in Prison: People who are released from imprisonment are free to register to vote.
- Option of Receiving Absentee Ballot permanently: People who register to vote Absentee have the option of always voting Absentee. This is a big one and about time.
- NATIVE AMERICAN VOTERS have a number of provisions under this law that expands their access to vote in all elections.
- The most important feature is the ability for the Secretary of State to enter into an MOA with the Indian nation, tribe or pueblo to process electronic registration information submitted by these agencies.
- County Commissioners must inform Native Governments of any adjustments they wish to make to precinct boundaries that affect Indian land.
- An Indian nation, tribe or pueblo can ask for polling locations, Election Day polling places, or request monitored secured containers on or near their land.
- Governmental and Official Buildings can be used as mailing addresses on Voter Registration Certificates and mail in ballots for Indian Nations, tribes and pueblos.
- The SOS will bear the costs related to providing support (such as secured containers).
- Election Day is a School Holiday. This is because so many communities use schools as voting locations.
- Monitored Secured Containers: Each County must have at least two monitored secured containers.
- Felony Conviction impact: A person who has been convicted of a felony cannot run for or hold public office without written proof of having completed the sentence and the governor’s pardon restoring full citizenship.
SB43: PROTECTION FOR ELECTION WORKERS FROM INTIMIDATION
This is a very short Bill that says that anyone convicted of intimidation, i.e. “use of or threatened use of force, violence, infliction of damage, harm or loss, or any form of economic retaliation” upon Election Officials (starting with the Secretary of State on down to poll challengers and watchers) will be subject to a fourth degree felony.
SB180: ELECTION SYSTEM ADMINISTRATION AND PROCESS CHANGES AND FIXES
This long and detailed Bill provides legislation to modernize election security and administration in New Mexico by updating the Election Code. It focuses primarily on provisions to aid election administrators in the efficient conduct of elections, secure sensitive voter data, increase compensation for election workers, require training for poll challengers and watchers, allow electronic nominating petition signatures, make permanent the SOS election security program, and update times and procedures for mail in ballots.