State Rep. Javier Martínez came up one vote short Friday of keeping alive a bill to expand the pool of voters in New Mexico.
Martínez, D-Albuquerque, proposed a constitutional amendment saying the state “shall take adequate and reasonable action to ensure” that all qualified electors be registered to vote in each election.
Majority Republicans on the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee didn’t debate the bill. They simply killed it on a 5-4 party-line vote.
“The lack of discussion sort of baffled me,” Martínez, 34, said afterward. With technological advances, he said, the state could and should be doing more to register every qualified voter.
The Secretary of State’s Office was neutral on Martínez’s bill, but saw a potential drawback.
His proposal called for “registration on or before Election Day.” In a staff analysis of the bill, the Secretary of State’s Office said the measure appeared to require same-day voter registration. “This provision would require significant technology improvements to ensure all polling locations across the state are interconnected,” the office said.
Rep. Eliseo Alcon, D-Milan, voted for the bill after expressing similar concerns about automatically registering everyone who’s qualified. “How can we do this?” he asked.
Supporters of the bill said it would re-enforce the idea that state government should be making it easier to vote. Some who testified for Martínez’s bill said that isn’t happening.
Viki Harrison, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, said she had received four recent complaints from people who were not asked if they were registered to vote when they applied for driver’s licenses or license renewals at Motor Vehicle Division offices. Those getting a license are supposed to be able to register to vote at the same time.
Alcon agreed with Harrison, saying motor-voter registrations haven’t been mentioned or promoted when people are getting their driver’s licenses in Grants, the biggest city in his legislative district.
Had Martínez’s bill cleared both houses of the Legislature, it would have gone before voters in November for a final decision.