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Hooray for online voter registration

Kudos to the secretary of state and the bipartisan group of legislators who crafted an online voter registration system that will make it easier to vote and ensure more accuracy in our election process.

The system went live last week in time for this year’s election season. The kick-off was a full year early thanks to the work of the Secretary of State’s Office, county clerks and a group of citizens concerned about the election process. Undaunted by the scandal surrounding former Secretary of State Dianna Duran, the group worked on and on. Now we will join with 26 other states to provide this service, which, along with early voting and convenience centers, places us among leading states in enacting voter-friendly policies.

How’s that for good news?

The announcement almost slipped by unnoticed, coming at the very end of the year, but it’s significant progress.

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The system will allow voters to register at the secretary of state’s website (www.sos.state.nm.us). It allows the state to join an interstate compact to resolve inconsistencies in interstate voter rolls when voters move about the country.

It will also allow the secretary of state to remove voters who died in other states from the rolls in New Mexico and apply federal rules to absentee voting, thus facilitating military and overseas voting. The system is available in both English and Spanish and is accessible to visually impaired people.

Even more notable is the process by which the complex bill passed the last session of the Legislature – unanimously.

Senate Bill 653, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Torraco, R-Albuquerque, incorporated several other bills sponsored by Sen. Daniel Ivy Soto, D-Albuquerque; Rep. Jim Smith, R-Sandia Park; and Rep. Bob Wooley, R-Roswell.

The bipartisan group got together with staff from the Motor Vehicle Division and the Secretary of State’s Office to come up with a win-win: a system that will save taxpayer money, allow more voters to register and lower the chance of electoral fraud. Imagine that!

We’re hoping that the same kind of can-do spirit will be at work in this year’s legislative session. Public confidence in elected officials has sunk to an all time low in the wake of the former secretary of state’s guilty plea to charges of embezzlement of campaign funds. Her mug shot is still in the minds of many.

Both Republicans and Democrats will face an electorate this fall that has told pollsters they overwhelmingly want an ethics commission to draw bright lines for citizen legislators and public officials.

Ethics reform, like online voter registration, is not a partisan issue. Both sides stand to gain from a measure to establish an independent body that could investigate complaints against public officials, recommend sanctions and provide education and training for officials – to deter unethical practices.

We applaud the bipartisan efforts of many of our elected officials who are currently crafting constitutional amendments to establish an ethics commission. If one of the amendments is passed by the legislators it would go on the ballot in November, and if successful there, back to the Legislature, which would be able to work out the details in the next long session.

New Mexico is one of only eight states that does not have an ethics commission. Now is the time to enact one, along with other common sense reforms to our campaign reporting system so we will no longer be seen by businesses, national media and groups that constantly paint New Mexico as a hotbed of corruption.


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