We’re all for making it easier to vote. The more citizens are engaged in the democratic process, the stronger we are as a state and a nation.
Voting prior to Election Day, for example, has become popular in New Mexico since the pandemic. Of the 714,754 ballots cast in November’s general election, 49.4% of voters cast their ballots at early voting sites and 13.7% voted absentee. Only 36.8% went to the polls on Election Day.
But a “Voting Rights Protections” bill clearing the Roundhouse has virtually nothing to do with actually protecting voting rights and everything to do with threatening voting integrity.
House Bill 4 was passed by the Senate on Wednesday by a 27-14 party-line vote and is going back to the House for agreement on some Senate amendments.
The 47-page bill Democrat-sponsored bill would direct the Secretary of State’s Office to automatically mail ballots — not absentee applications, but actual ballots — every primary and general election to voters who have signed up for a permanent absentee voting list. Presently, voters must request absentee ballots before they are mailed out. Blindly automatically mailing ballots to a hundred thousand or more addresses on a permanent list of voters is a recipe for election fraud.
The bill would also automatically register voters at Motor Vehicle Division offices during transactions whether they consent to be registered or not (although customers could later unregister through a postcard mailed to them); automatically restore the voting rights of felons upon their release from custody before they’ve completed probation or parole; and make Election Day a school holiday, even though nearly two-thirds of voters are casting ballots prior to Election Day.
The bill does have some good provisions — it requires each county to have at least two drop boxes for absentee ballots so voters can easily get their ballots in on time and allows for waivers if the boxes aren’t practical for security or geographic reasons; and it establishes a Native American Voting Rights Act intended to better coordinate access to the polls on tribal land.
But overall it’s about blindly getting as many people to cast ballots as possible — valid and informed or not — not “necessary and important updates to our Election Code,” as sponsor Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, claims.
Voting is a sacred right. Major laws altering the Election Code shouldn’t be about gaming the system. The governor should veto HB 4 if it clears the Legislature.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.