Voter registration bill dies

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The New Mexican

Democratic state Rep. Debbie Rodella joined with three Republicans on Thursday to kill a bill that would have allowed people to register to vote within three days of primary or general elections.
Eligible voters in New Mexico now must register at least 28 days before an election in order to vote in it. Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, sponsored the bill to widen the time for registration, saying voting is a right and lawmakers should make it easier for people to cast a ballot.
His proposal, Senate Bill 224, would have allowed for the extended registration period at early voting sites, many of which have real-time access to New Mexico’s voter registration system. For those lacking that technology, voters would have been allowed to cast provisional ballots that wouldn’t be counted until a subsequent verification of whether the registrant was eligible to vote.
Steinborn’s bill cleared the Senate this month on a 19-11 vote, but not a single Republican supported it. The measure’s first hearing in the House was the local government and elections committee, where Democrats have a 4-3 advantage.
But Rodella, of Española, quickly made it clear that she opposed the bill. She said prospective voters already have 11 months of the year to register and many places to do so, including their county clerk’s office and state Motor Vehicle Division offices that issue driver’s licenses.
“So, my goodness, it seems there’s so many different ways for a person to register, if they want to,” Rodella said.
She also cited difficulties that an extended registration deadline could cause. Election officials from a handful of smaller population counties, including Rodella’s home county of Rio Arriba, had testified that Steinborn’s bill would place extraordinary burdens on them.
Michele Jordan, chief of Rio Arriba County’s Bureau of Elections, said her small office already is overworked and Steinborn’s bill would make it worse.
“I’m sorry, but that would be a mandate that would not be reasonable.... You’d kill us. With the staffing we have, no way,” Jordan said.
The League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the Hispanic advocacy group LULAC and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver supported the bill, as did Doña Ana County Clerk Scott Krahling and members of his staff.
Krahling said he regards the deadline to register 28 days before an election as arbitrary. He said part of his job is to create a culture in which more people exercise their right to vote.