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Domenici Offers Voter ID Bill

By Andy Lenderman
Journal Politics Writer
    Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., has introduced federal legislation that would require more first-time voters, nationwide, to show identification before voting this year— unless they registered in person with a government employee.
    His amendment to the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 would take effect immediately and retroactively cover all people who registered since that provision of HAVA took effect in Jan. 1, 2003, Domenici spokesman Chris Gallegos said.
    However, Gallegos acknowledged that getting the amendment passed before the Nov. 2 election could be difficult.
    "It's tough to get it passed in time for this election," Domenici said Tuesday. "But I'm going to try my best— very, very hard."
    A Democratic lawyer involved in the voter identification fight at the state level said Republicans are trying to keep people from voting.
    And Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said that, in general, the federal government should defer to the states on voting procedures.
    "New Mexico has laws on the books that govern this issue," Bingaman said in a statement. He said he looks forward to learning more about the bill.
    Federal law now requires that first-time voters who register by mail must show identification before voting.
    Domenici's amendment would expand the federal identification requirement to people registered through a third party— like one of the many grass-roots voter registration drives that have swelled New Mexico voter rolls to more than 1 million people in the past year.
    A fight over how many voters must show identification this year has been ongoing in New Mexico at the state District Court level and now, the state Supreme Court level, for several weeks.
    Meanwhile on Tuesday, a voter identification lawsuit filed in Socorro County was dismissed when the parties agreed to drop the suit. A similar case from Chaves County will go before the state Supreme Court on Sept. 27.
    "I thought that if they (New Mexicans) don't want to enforce their own law, I ought to ask the federal government to do something just like it," Domenici said.
    Republicans and their supporters say the move prevents voter fraud, by catching problems before they reach the system. Democrats say it's a way to hassle and intimidate new voters unfamiliar with their civil rights, and keep them from coming out to vote.
    "The problem developing here is a problem of obstructing people from voting by imposing ID requirements on them that many people won't be able to comply with," said John Boyd, an attorney for the Democratic Party of New Mexico.