On Monday, the New Mexico House of Representatives voted 42-25 to concur with the Senate’s changes of H.B. 4, an extreme rewrite of many portions of the state’s election code. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk.
Provisions in the bill would erode election security by letting felons vote, mandating a permanent absentee voter list, 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.”
Provisions on the Senate side that were amended in include giving county clerks the opportunity to get waivers from the Secretary of State’s office to opt out of ballot drop boxes and clarifying language regarding prisons and detention facilities.
The bill now goes to Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk for a signature.