On January 27, 2023, House Bill 4 (“HB-4” or “the bill”), Voting Rights Protection, was introduced before the New Mexico Legislature by Representatives Javier Martinez, Gail Chasey, Katy M. Dunhigg, D. Wanda Johnson and Raymundo Lara.
A copy of HB-4 may be reviewed and/or downloaded HERE, on the New Mexico Legislature’s website.
The bill, which is pending its first review in the House Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee tomorrow, has several interesting provisions. I’ve summarized some of the more interesting or potentially concerning provisions of HB-4 below:
Section 3 requires formal written requests to obtain even highly limited or redacted registered voter data and the requirement for submitting an affidavit promising that the receiving party would not unlawfully use or otherwise make the information available to the general public. It’s unclear if this impacts New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records Act.
Section 4 declares the unlawful use or distribution of voter information (obtained pursuant to Section 3) to be a fourth degree felony with a penalty of $100 for each line of unlawfully-used data. This is particularly interesting considering that any released data under this bill would already be scrubbed of all sensitive and private data. It also seems that using law enforcement resources to investigate a questionable release of this information is unlikely to be an investigative priority considering the overwhelming number of violent crimes and thefts currently plaguing New Mexico.
Section 5 authorizes on-the-spot voter registration at the polling locations on voting day with an accompanying affidavit, and allows the use of government IDs lacking expiration dates or that indicate expiration to be used as evidence of current residency. Allowing expired identification cards does not seem like a logical way to prove one’s current residency.
Section 6 includes added language authorizing the “board of registration” to terminate any person’s voter registration at its discretion. Although I understand that the board needs to have proper authority, there was no clarification or examples given as to what might justify the board to direct the termination of a voter’s registration.
Section 8 provides guidance and requires certain governmental agencies to offer voter registration at the time of motor vehicle registration or other related action. Of particular interest are the provisions requiring automatic voter registration of individuals applying for or renewing driver’s licenses, ID cards or learner’s permits. If the person is not already registered, Section 8 compels registration with the state. Interestingly, the state then mails information to the person citing the automatic registration and requesting additional personal information (including a party affiliation). This seems like a way to create confusion, require more state employees and enhance the potential for mistakes. It seems only logical to this writer that every American should have to affirmatively request and maintain voter registration and not have it forced upon them.
Section 11 allows residents to sign up for a permanent absentee voter list, apparently without any required justification on the part of the voter. This is yet another approach that results in additional back and forth paperwork with the state, enhancing the potential for mistakes (or potential abuse).
Section 12 introduces new language requiring no less than two monitored ballot drop boxes (referred to as “secured containers”) within each county. In this writer’s view, this approach to ballot collection is rife for abuse, and seems unnecessary given the long period (sometimes weeks) for voting and availability of the USPS.
Sections 13-23 specify requirements for native tribes, pueblos and nations within New Mexico to establish similar voting requirements, as would be required of persons subject to State of New Mexico jurisdiction under HB-4.
Section 24 states that “[e]very general election and regular local election shall be a school holiday for students and staff at each public school in [New Mexico].”
Section 27 provides, if the bill is approved and becomes law, that the effective date for automatic voter registration would be July 1, 2025, with most of the other requirements becoming effective July 1, 2023.
My brothers and sisters, this was a long one, so I’ll simply say that it seems we are stuck in a cycle of more and more government, at more and more cost, involving more and more complexity, with more and more potential for errors, confusion and angst.
Perhaps having one voting day (with limited exceptions only) and using equipment or paper in a way that reduces complexity, and therefore, reduces errors and increases trust, makes more sense. I flat out do not understand why this bill, or any bill, would attempt to force a voter registration on anyone in lieu of affirmative registration.
Praise Jesus forevermore!