State to implement new voting rules

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver

SANTA FE – New Mexico’s election chief is adopting new rules aimed at making it easier for blind voters to cast absentee ballots on their own – among other changes – in time for the June 5 primary.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, approved rules this week that clarify the handling of provisional ballots, the order in which certain races appear on the ballot and how state campaigns can transfer funds from one race to another.

The changes come after a public hearings held last month.

“These rules brings clarity to a number of existing election procedures and make it easier for New Mexico’s voters – including blind and visually impaired voters – to cast a ballot,” Toulouse Oliver said in a written statement.

None of the rule changes touch on the more hot-button issue of straight party voting. Toulouse Oliver has said she hopes to bring that procedure back – allowing voters to check a single box and vote for every candidate of one political party – but it isn’t part of this week’s package of changes.

One rule change approved this week, for example, will allow blind and visually impaired voters to vote absentee by using their own technology – a moved aimed at allowing them to vote independently and confidentially.

The voters would have to certify that they’re blind before receiving an electronic ballot.

“Voters who are blind or visually impaired deserve privacy when marking their ballots, just like any other voter,” Greg Trapp, of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, said.

Other changes involve election procedures for processing ballots and requiring candidates to establish a new campaign committee when they run for a different office, though they can transfer funds.

“The rule on guidelines for candidates when they switch offices is critical,” Viki Harrison of the nonpartisan Common Cause New Mexico said. “We often have elected officials who decide to run for a different office and keeping track of when and where their contributions came from and for which office can be challenging at best.”