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Secretary of state calls for same-day voter registration

SANTA FE – Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said Tuesday she will support legislation in the upcoming 60-day session that would make New Mexico the 19th state to implement same-day voter registration, saying it would increase voter participation in a state that has earned low ratings for political engagement.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver

Two of New Mexico’s neighboring states – Utah and Colorado – already allow same-day registration, which permits eligible residents to sign up to vote and cast their ballot on the same day.

Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, who easily won re-election this month to a new four-year term, said recent technological advances would make it relatively easy for New Mexico to adopt the practice, though she acknowledged such a move could require more training and resources for county clerks statewide.

“There’s no technological reason we couldn’t safely engage in same-day voter registration,” Toulouse Oliver told reporters during a wide-ranging discussion.

She also said the state’s current law, which sets the deadline to register to vote at 28 days before an election, often leads to voters showing up to vote but being unable to cast a ballot due to registration glitches.

“When you look at the number of provisional ballots that get cast and then not counted … same-day voter registration could capture a lot of those voters,” Toulouse Oliver said.

Some critics of same-day voter registration have argued the practice can open the door to voter fraud, but the secretary of state said Tuesday any new voters registering on Election Day would have to provide a driver’s license number or similar documentation.

While election results won’t be certified until next week, this year’s general election saw record-breaking early vote totals for a nonpresidential election year. In all, 698,976 registered voters cast ballots, The statewide turnout rate was 55.4 percent, according to unofficial results.

“We had a very active and engaged electorate in New Mexico this election cycle and that’s a positive,” Toulouse Oliver said.

Meanwhile, the secretary of state said it’s unlikely New Mexico would move in the near future to adopt ranked-choice voting,also known as “instant runoff,” in which voters can rank candidates in order of choice.

The push for ranked-choice voting has so far been focused on cities, as Santa Fe used ranked-choice voting in its March municipal election and the Las Cruces city council also voted to adopt the method in June.

“I don’t know that there is a strong groundswell to do that (statewide) at this point,” Toulouse Oliver said.

Maine became the first state this year to elect a congressman using ranked-choice voting.

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