On Wednesday, the New Mexico Senate voted 27-14 to pass H.B. 4, an extreme rewrite of many portions of the state’s election code.
Provisions in the bill would erode election security by letting felons vote, mandating a permanent absentee voter list, mandatory ballot drop boxes, and mandating voters be automatically registered at the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD), where they would have to opt out by mail.
There were many concerns in committees and during floor discussions about the bill infringing on religious freedoms because some religions do not permit voting. Forcibly registering people to vote would be a violation.
According to the bill’s fiscal impact report, the Taxation and Revenue Department reports that “implementation of this bill will have a high impact on its IT Division. The estimated time to develop, test, and implement the changes is approximately 2,704 hours or 17 months and approximately $717,700 ($567,800 contractual resources including gross receipts tax and staff workload costs of $149,900). The bill will require MVD to partner with [the Secretary of State’s office] to make changes to the interface between the two agencies.”
According to the New Mexico Sun, “The New Mexico Business Coalition (NMBC) strongly opposes HB 4. NMBC President Carla Sonntag published a letter arguing that the legislation would endanger both voting rights and voting system integrity in many ways, including automatically registering voters without their consent, increasing the likelihood of non-U.S. citizens being registered to vote and giving full voting rights to felons prior to completion of parole/probation.”
Following the Senate vote, Republican Senate Leader Brian Baca said in a statement, “I am incredibly disappointed in the Secretary of State and Democratic legislators who put progressive special interests above the people of New Mexico with the passage of this legislation,” adding, “The only beneficiaries of this legislation are felons and those seeking to compromise the integrity of our elections.”
While the bill was in the House, Republicans attempted to amend it with a provision to require photo identification to vote, which all died. In the Senate, Republicans attempted to add amendments, including one to create an opt-in system for the MVD registrations. Those attempts failed also.
Since the Senate amended the bill in that chamber, it will now have to go back to the House for concurrence. If that happens, it will go to Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk, where she is all but guaranteed to sign it. New Mexicans can contact their state representatives to ask them to oppose the bill.