A New Mexico voting rights bill that would expand voting access in the state, including restoring the rights of felons to vote upon release from incarceration, is headed to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to sign after final passage from the state legislature this week.
The bill, which Lujan Grisham is expected to sign, is a part of a broad package in the Democratic-controlled legislature to expand voting rights in New Mexico. On Monday, the state House passed a separate bill that makes intimidation against election workers a felony.
The bill headed to Lujan Grisham’s desk would allow ex-felons to vote and register to vote upon release from incarceration. Currently, New Mexico allows people with former felony convictions the ability to vote upon completion of their sentence, including probation or parole.
The bill, House Bill 4, that is headed for Lujan Grisham’s desk would allow for New Mexicans to become registered to vote through automatic voter registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles or other state or local public offices designated by the secretary of state. Voters can also opt-in to a voluntary permanent absentee voter list, in which a mailed ballot would be sent to a voter each time a statewide election takes place in their precinct.
It would also protect polling place access and against other election issues involving voters who live on Indian Nation, Tribal and Pueblo Land to make it easier to vote for Native Americans in the state. In addition, the bill would declare Election Day a school holiday.
“Our democracy, our sacred right to vote, is under threat,” Democratic state Sen. Katy Duhigg, a sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement.
“This bill will bring us one step closer to making equal access to the ballot box a reality for every qualified New Mexican. Each component of the act represents commonsense voting protections ensuring that eligible New Mexicans have their constitutional right to vote,” Duhigg said.
State Senate Republicans, who all voted against the bill, offered condemnations of the passage of the bill.
“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,” state Senate Republican Leader Greg Baca said in a statement.
“The result is a bill that was opposed by many of our county clerks and every Republican in the legislature. The only beneficiaries of this legislation are felons and those seeking to compromise the integrity of our elections.”
The New Mexico bill is one of nearly 70 introduced around the country that would restore voting rights for ex-felons, according to Democracy Docket. Earlier this month, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill that will restore the voting rights of thousands of convicted felons in the state this summer once they leave prison, instead of after they complete parole. The similar law in Minnesota will allow as many as 55,000 formerly incarcerated felons to vote from that day forward.