While the fate of federal suffrage legislation remains in limbo, New Mexico lawmakers have taken the initiative to pass suffrage legislation that will protect and expand the freedom to vote throughout the state. Thanks to Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and House Majority Leader Javier Martinez, as well as four co-sponsors of the US legislature. state and to 50 support organizations across the state, the new New Mexico Voting Rights Act gives the state the ability to implement a comprehensive bill that will modernize elections and build on Senate Bill 672 passed in 2019.
While the implementation of Senate Bill 672 – which included Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) and same-day voter registration – was an essential first step in making the voter registration system of the New Mexico more efficient, the upgrade resulted in a very small increase in the overall enrollment rate. This year, New Mexico’s Voting Rights Act provides an incredible opportunity to build on this reform to, among other things, improve state electoral practices, strengthen electoral integrity, and protect the freedom to vote. of all eligible New Mexicans.
Of all the reforms proposed in New Mexico’s Voting Rights Act, the back-end AVR – a simple, no-nonsense upgrade to New Mexico’s existing AVR system – has the potential to reach and register the most eligible voters. The back-end is efficient, secure and accurate, and could more than double participation effect of New Mexico’s current Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) registration system, expand AVR to agencies outside of the MVD (such as Medicaid) that reach more diverse voters and enable save up to $350,000 per election in New Mexico. With the AVR back-end, New Mexico will be able to register many more eligible voters than the current system and, in a State that ranks 42nd in the country for voter registration rates, this upgrade would ensure that the approximately 473,000 unregistered eligible New Mexicans have the opportunity to participate in future elections. With the AVR back-end, more than 85% of eligible voters who pass through covered state agencies would be registered to vote or have their registrations updated.
Similar to New Mexico, Colorado initially implemented a frontal AVR system as part of an effort to make its system more efficient. As more and more data became available on the effectiveness of back-end AVR, Colorado took steps to make further improvements. The change the state saw from moving to the back-end AVR was significant. Stanford University’s Dr. Justin Grimmer and Dr. Jonathan Rodden recently published an analysis that showed Colorado’s back-end AVR system almost doubled the DMV registration rate compared to the previous front AVR system.
In addition to the economic benefits and the ability to reach more eligible New Mexicans, the back-end AVR will make voter rolls fairer. The back-end AVR is proven to register more young voters, more voters of color, and more low-income voters than the current system. It also ensures that eligible, formerly incarcerated people are automatically registered to vote through the MVD or Medicaid, and registers and pre-registers young voters much more efficiently than the current system. The AVR back-end presents a critical and sensible next step in developing the AVR, which has made New Mexico’s voting systems more secure, accurate, efficient, and fair.
Another element of the bill includes restoring the right to vote to people who were previously incarcerated. Across the country, more than 5 million Americans are barred from voting due to felony charges, and over 11,000 New Mexicans cannot vote due to previous convictions. Restoring the right to vote upon release is a monumental step forward in ensuring that formerly incarcerated New Mexicans can engage with their communities and have a say in legislation that impacts their daily lives.
New Mexico’s Voting Rights Act includes the expansion of the Native American Voting Rights Act to ensure that a just and free democracy in the state leaves no one behind – especially not private communities an equal voice in government for generations. Additionally, the coronavirus the pandemic has posed a significant obstacle that prevented indigenous people from voting in the 2020 election. By increasing collaboration between tribal leaders and poll clerks, normalizing early voting on tribal lands, and securing much-needed resources for polling stations and secure ballot boxes, New Mexico’s 23 Native American tribes, which make up 10% of the state’s population, will have an equal opportunity to have their voices heard.
States like Minnesota, New Jersey, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania have already shown the power of upgrading their online voter registration systems, and New Mexico’s OVR system upgrade is the next step in modernizing and securing state electoral practices. By allowing eligible voters to use the last four digits of their Social Security number as identification when registering to vote online, New Mexico can expand access while maintaining security standards rigorous.
During the 2020 election cycle, 65 million Americans have chosen to vote by mail because it is safe, secure and efficient. Two years later, some states, such as California and Nevada, have changed their electoral practices to reflect the unique challenges posed by the pandemic. Since eligible voters only need to register once to vote by mail, they never have to worry about requesting mail-in ballots or navigating government websites before the elections. Since election clerks can maintain an accurate list of eligible voters who prefer to vote by mail, they can plan ahead to make the voting process smooth and even more cost effective.
The proposed bill was created to ensure New Mexico’s unique and diverse populations are represented, and it will work to ensure the right to vote for all eligible New Mexicans, regardless of restrictive legislation emanating from Washington.