SANTA FE – Secretary of State Brad Winter’s office sent out postcards this week to nearly 460,000 New Mexicans who appear to be eligible to vote but aren’t registered, drawing criticism from the Republican candidate who wants to succeed him.
State Rep. Nora Espinoza of Roswell said current voter lists should be cleaned up before such outreach occurs, and she is concerned that the registration effort could lead to noncitizens being registered and voting.
The postcards tell recipients if they are 18 or older, a resident of New Mexico and a U.S. citizen, they may be able to vote, and they can register or update their information online or request a paper form from the Bureau of Elections.
The mailing was generated with information from the Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, a multistate organization with data-matching tools that aims to make voter rolls more accurate and increase access to voter registration. New Mexico joined in July.
Espinoza brought up the mailing in a speech Tuesday at the monthly meeting of the Republican Party of Santa Fe County.
“We have 100,000 people with driver’s licenses who are not citizens,” she said, referring to undocumented immigrants who have been issued N.M. licenses and ERIC’s reliance on motor vehicle databases. “To be fair, they do tell them they have to be citizens – but how do they know?”
She cited the admission by fellow state Rep. Idalia Lechuga-Tena, D-Albuquerque, that she had voted before she was a citizen, and pointed out that she was not prosecuted for it.
“Do you expand when you haven’t taken care of other issues?” she asked the Journal later. She said the voter file is bloated and inaccurate, with some voters’ “addresses” nothing more than commercial mailbox stores, and she maintained there are problems with duplicate and fake Social Security numbers.
Espinoza’s Democratic opponent, Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver, is supportive of the current efforts by Winter’s office to reach out to eligible but unregistered voters to increase participation in elections, her campaign spokesman, Alan Packman, said Wednesday.
Participating in ERIC “also increases the integrity and accuracy of our voter rolls by matching our data against many local and national records to help identify voters who have moved or are no longer eligible and should be removed from the rolls,” Packman said in a statement.
This week’s mailing cost $114,000, with half of it paid for by Pew Charitable Trusts – which helped start ERIC – and the rest from county clerks’ budgets, according to state Elections Director Kari Fresquez.
“We need to do cleanup of the voter rolls, and that’s why we joined ERIC,” Fresquez said.
In announcing the mailing, Winter said, “We hope these postcards will encourage eligible voters to go online and get registered in time to participate in the Nov. 8 general election.”
The deadline to register is Oct. 11.
Espinoza and Toulouse Oliver are vying to fill out the remaining two years of the term of former Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who resigned last year and pleaded guilty to misusing her campaign funds.
Winter, a Republican who was appointed by the governor to the position, isn’t running.