Election procedures bill advances out of Senate committee - Albuquerque Journal

Election procedures bill advances out of Senate committee

From left, Sens. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, Gabriel Ramos, D-Silver City, and Gregory Baca, R-Belen, talk on the Senate floor on Thursday, the opening day of a special session at the Roundhouse (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A bill authorizing new election procedures for New Mexico’s 2020 general election advanced Thursday, but only after a Senate committee stripped out a key provision dealing with voting by mail.

In its initial form, Senate Bill 4 would have allowed county clerks to mail ballots to voters in early October, even without voters first requesting an absentee ballot, as is currently required.

But critics claimed that provision could lead to voting irregularities, and two Democratic senators who were defeated in this month’s primary election – Clemente Sanchez of Grants and Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces – ultimately joined with four Republicans to amend it out of the bill.

Sen. Gregory Baca, R-Belen, said the bill as initially drafted would have removed voter fraud safeguards by allowing for ballots to be mailed directly to voters without being requested.

“If we have erroneous ballots being cast, I think that negates an accurate count,” Baca said during a Thursday hearing of the Senate Rules Committee.

He also said the proposed system could be more expensive to administer and lead to longer waits for voting results.

However, backers argued the change would give county clerks the flexibility to decide how to run this year’s election with the pandemic still possibly looming over the state.

“I think the committee showed a lack of trust in our county election officials,” Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver told reporters after Tuesday’s hearing.

Heather Ferguson, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, a group that supports expanded mail-in voting, also lamented the change, saying county clerks should have the ability to make decisions based on the needs of their local voters.

Five states already mail a ballot – not a ballot application – to all voters, though the states vary in how much in-person voting they also offer, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

But mail-in voting has faced resistance in New Mexico, as the state Supreme Court in April rejected a petition from 27 county clerks to allow the primary election to be conducted largely by mail.

As part of its ruling, the Supreme Court ordered election officials throughout New Mexico to mail absentee applications to every eligible voter before the election.

New Mexico ended up having a historic turnout for the primary election, as more than 417,000 voters – or about 42% of those eligible to vote – cast ballots, according to unofficial results.

Nearly 267,000 of those who voted did so via absentee ballot, after Toulouse Oliver and other top state officials urged eligible voters to use the option in order to reduce person-to-person contact.

Under the bill approved Thursday after being amended, county clerks could still decide to send out absentee ballot applications in advance of the Nov. 3 general election or just leave it up to voters to decide a voting method.

Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, the lead sponsor of the bill, said he was disappointed by the amendment but said the bill still contains positive elements.

That includes allowing absentee ballot applications to be sent out earlier than currently allowed and requiring a bar code system be used on envelopes of mail-in ballots in order to track them.

“This enhances security and it does not disenfranchise anybody,” Ivey-Soto said.

However, the bill would not extend the current deadline for absentee ballots to be received.

Under current law, ballots must be received by the time polls close on Election Day in order to be counted.

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop


Avangrid and NY firm swap allegations in separate lawsuits
ABQnews Seeker
Connecticut-based energy company Avangrid and New ... Connecticut-based energy company Avangrid and New York-based Security Limits Inc. have each filed se ...
State accepting more types of cannabis license applications
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico's Cannabis Control Division announced ... New Mexico's Cannabis Control Division announced Tuesday that it is now accepting license applications for all cannabis-business types, including manufacturing and retail.
Fiebelkorn leading big in City Council runoff; Grilley-Grout contest ...
2021 city election
Democrat Tammy Fiebelkorn has a large ... Democrat Tammy Fiebelkorn has a large lead in one of Tuesday's two Albuquerque City Council runoffs, but early election returns show the race between ...
APD: Recent shooting done in self-defense
ABQnews Seeker
Detectives say a Las Cruces man ... Detectives say a Las Cruces man acted in self-defense when he fatally shot another man Monday evening in an East Central neighborhood in Albuquerque. ...
Proposed congressional map would split ABQ
ABQnews Seeker
Two powerful committee leaders at the ... Two powerful committee leaders at the Capitol — Sen. Joseph Cervantes and Rep. Georgene Louis — proposed a map Tuesday that would give Democrats ...
BCSO offers video, details of shooting by deputy
ABQnews Seeker
An 18-year-old who was shot by ... An 18-year-old who was shot by a Bernalillo County Sheriff's deputy late last month was holding an AR-15 pistol while running toward other deputies, ...
NM lawmakers weigh $462 million plan to spend federal ...
ABQnews Seeker
In their second try at spending ... In their second try at spending New Mexico's latest round of federal stimulus dollars, New Mexico lawmakers have crafted a $462.5 million spending plan ...
NM reports 969 new cases, 11 deaths
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico reported 969 new COVID-19 ... New Mexico reported 969 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday — an improvement from recent days — and 11 additional deaths. The state did see ...
Four critically injured in foothills-area crash
ABQnews Seeker
A two-vehicle crash left six people ... A two-vehicle crash left six people injured, four of them critically, Tuesday afternoon in Northeast Albuquerque. Gilbert Gallegos, an Albuquerque police spokesman, said the ...