In less than a month, state legislators descend upon Santa Fe to once again to try and change New Mexico law. One of the lawmakers wants to allow felons to vote. Right now in New Mexico, those convicted of felony crimes are able to register to vote after they finish their sentence, which includes probation and parole. But one Democratic Representative wants to change that.
“Voting is a fundamental right,” said Representative Gail Chasey.
House Democrat Gail Chasey wants to shake up New Mexico’s voting rights. She said years ago, New Mexico legislators decided to give convicted felons the right to vote after they completed their time and other requirements for the crime.
Now she pre-filed a bill that would allow felony inmates who are currently serving their time to register to vote.
“Should there be punishment for people who are convicted? Absolutely,” said Representative Chasey. “And do they lose some of their rights, yes. They lose their right to move about in society, but the punishment is incarceration.”
“I really question this bill,” said Representative Bill Rehm.
Some house Republicans see problems with the idea.
“Traditionally, there have been penalties for being a felon and we find that constitutionally we’ve always taken the right to vote away from them while they’re a felon,” said Representative Rehm.
Even locals are split.
“I think every American citizen has the right to vote and we should still uphold it,” said local Robert Graves.
“It all just depends on the crime to me,” said local Brian Palmer.
Ultimately, it’s up to the Democrat-majority legislature and possibly Governor-Elect Michelle Lujan Grisham to decide.
“We want well informed, law-abiding citizens who are responsible tax-paying people and a convicted felon is none of those,” said Representative Rehm.
“We’re trying to keep those who are incarcerated closely involved with their communities so when they get out, they feel invested in the community, they have the support of their families, they haven’t withdrawn and become so alienated,” said Representative Chasey.
What is not clarified in the proposal are the logistics of registering felons who are not already registered to vote and how they would actually cast their ballots.
Other voting reform bills have also been pre-filed. Among them: automatic voter registration when you update your information at the MVD and allowing you to register three days prior to an election day.