SANTA FE – New Mexicans should be able to register to vote online by the end of this week, as the Secretary of State’s Office is putting the final touches on new regulations that will allow the option for the first time in state history.
Online voter registration has surged in popularity in recent years and is already available in 26 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New Mexico is one of three additional states – Oklahoma and Florida are the others – implementing such a system.
Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill, approved by legislators during this year’s 60-day legislative session, that mandated online voter registration, among other changes, and officials in the Secretary of State’s Office have been working to have it ready to go by Friday – more than a year before their deadline.
At a Tuesday hearing at the state Capitol, feedback on the proposed online voter regulations was largely positive, though several American Indian voting rights advocates expressed concern the system could pose challenges on tribal lands.
Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the Bernalillo County clerk, said county clerks have been working with the Secretary of State’s Office on the new regulations for months.
“In general, I think the rule is in good shape, and I’m excited to move forward with online voter registration,” Toulouse Oliver said.
Currently, those eligible to vote in New Mexico can get a voter registration form at a county clerk’s office, the Secretary of State’s Office or from other state agencies, including Motor Vehicle Division field offices. The completed forms can then be mailed in or turned in by hand.
Those options will still be available even after the implementation of online voter registration, Kari Fresquez, interim election director for the Secretary of State’s Office, said Tuesday.
For those wishing to register to vote or update their registrations online, there will be a link on the Secretary of State’s Office website starting Friday, Fresquez said. Submitted registrations will go electronically to county clerks’ offices, where they will be double-checked against current voter rolls to ensure there is no duplication and that the individual is eligible to vote.
Secretary of State Brad Winter, who was appointed to the office by Martinez this month, attended Tuesday’s hearing and will have the final say on whether to adjust the new regulations before final implementation.
Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, who also attended the public hearing, said implementing online voter registration now will allow for any potential glitches to be fixed before the 2016 elections.
He also said the new system could end up being a cost-saver, because it could lead to fewer mailings and less time spent by county clerks having to input handwritten voter registration forms.
“Online voter registration is one of the very few public policies that allows government to make a service available to its citizens and save money at the same time,” Ivey-Soto told the Journal.
There were nearly 1.2 million New Mexicans registered to vote as of Nov. 30, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Of those, roughly 46 percent were registered Democrats and about 31 percent were registered as Republicans, with the rest either declining to state a party affiliation or being members of another registered political party.