GOP senator’s filibuster kills voting rights bill | Legislature | New Mexico Legislative Session

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A Republican lawmaker led an individual charge to prevent a sweeping voting rights bill from succeeding — and he won.

Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, led a lengthy Senate filibuster Thursday morning with a handy tool in his suit pocket: time.

Sharer spent more than two hours ticking the clock talking about tax policy, the Battle of Glorieta Pass, the Navajo Code Talkers, baseball and, almost inexplicably, the celestial alignment of the sun and moon.

By the time he was done, he was seconds away from noon and the scheduled end of the 30-day legislative session. Sharer’s stream-of-consciousness monologue effectively ended any chance that Senate Bill 144 would pass and move to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office.

Sharer was applauded by some on the Senate floor when he concluded. He got the derision of others.

Just moments after announcing his stunning decision not to run for office, House Speaker Brian Egolf lambasted Sharer.

“To deny New Mexicans the opportunity to have easier access to the ballot, to mock the process by reading the rules of baseball, is a joke,” Egolf said. “It’s sad, and he should be ashamed.”

At a press conference shortly after the session ended, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham was more muted in her criticism but acknowledged her frustration.

“This is not my first filibuster in the state of New Mexico. … I’ve had many bills as Governor and Cabinet Secretary that have been caught in this environment, and I’ve never been happy about it,” she said. “It’s a real disappointment.”

She said such delaying tactics are “very disrespectful” to people trying to push their legislation across the finish line.

Sharer’s decision came immediately after House of Representatives lawmakers spent hours Thursday morning debating the 165-page voting rights bill that critics said had been concocted by Democrats in the purpose of forcing the initiative on the last day of the session.

Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, said the bill would make elections “more accessible, safer, fairer,” and the Democratic-dominated House voted 39 to 30 to approve the bill before send it to the Senate for adoption. But at that time, there was little time left in the session.

The issue of voter access and ensuring accurate election results has become a hot topic across the country, especially in the wake of the 2020 general election, in which many supporters of former President Donald Trump accused the election of being stolen. Democratic representatives took to the stage on Thursday morning to tout the merits of the bill, with some offering personal testimonials about the need to protect voters’ rights.

Rep. Kristina Ortez, D-Taos, recalled her grandmother, a migrant worker in California fields, registering to vote for the first time with help from the late U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

She said it reinforced the idea that “it should always be possible for them and we should do everything in our power to make it happen”. As a result, she said, her grandmother made her feel that if she ever missed a chance to vote, “it would be like committing a sin.”

But Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, said the omnibus legislation tied to parts of three election-related bills and hadn’t been properly reviewed or analyzed by House lawmakers in the past two. session days.

“I would suggest to this body that a thorough review of this bill has not taken place — has not taken place,” he said after the roughly three-hour debate ended.

Senate and House Democrats first introduced the omnibus bill during a committee hearing on Tuesday afternoon. Some members of the public and some county clerks around the state who spoke at that hearing expressed disappointment and dismay, saying lawmakers — as one person put it — were pushing the bill into the dark. throats of voters late in the game.

The original voting rights bill, SB 8, was backed by Lujan Grisham and leading Senate Democrats. But it ran into hurdles early on, as lawmakers from both parties suggested changes, deletions and amendments.

Later in the session, Senate Republicans raised questions about that bill and blocked it through a legislative process last weekend.

Because of that, Ely said, Democrats decided to “take the pieces and put them into this bill — not everything … but the things that we thought the public would appreciate and were ready for and that were consistent with our philosophy of the bill”.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said in a press release that she was “extremely disappointed” by Sharer’s filibuster and the bill’s demise.

“Senate Bill 144 included important provisions to streamline election administration procedures that had buy-in from across the political spectrum,” she said, adding that she will work to pass the policies of the bill in an upcoming legislative session.

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