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Voter Measure Gets Support

By Dan Boyd
Journal Capitol Bureau
       SANTA FE — A push to allow New Mexico voters to register, and vote, on Election Day is receiving strong support from some top state politicos.
    Nine states currently allow same-day voter registration, which supporters say increases voter turnout, particularly among younger voters and minorities.
    The proposal has fizzled in New Mexico before — most recently in 2006 — but it could be different this year after a landmark presidential election and one of the smoothest Election Days in recent state history.
    Gov. Bill Richardson threw his support behind the concept Wednesday, the same day it was presented to the Legislature's Courts, Corrections and Justice interim committee.
    "New Mexico has seen great success — in both increased voter confidence and participation — with those election reforms we've already enacted, particularly paper ballots," Richardson said in a statement. "Election Day registration will further strengthen voting in New Mexico by making it easier and more accessible to our citizens."
    Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver told lawmakers that allowing same-day voter registration could also reduce the role of nonprofit groups that sign up new voters.
    New Mexico law now calls for voter registration to be cut off 28 days before a statewide election.
    If same-day registration is implemented in New Mexico, proponents estimate voter turnout would improve by 5.6 percent. That would have meant an additional 46,000 or so voters in this year's general election.
    State lawmakers will likely vote on the proposal during the upcoming 60-day session, and several voiced support for the idea Wednesday.
    "I've always voted for bills that make it easier to vote," said House Majority Leader Ken Martinez, D-Grants. "When a voter is turned away, it's just devastating to that voter."
    Officials with the Secretary of State's Office said they haven't studied the proposal extensively but are willing to consider anything that enfranchises voters.