NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A House Bill looking to expand access to voting in New Mexico got its first hearing Monday, Feb. 27, in a Senate Committee after making it through the House. House Bill 4 was heard in the Senate Rules Committee Monday morning, after having already passed the House Floor on a 41-26 vote.

“Despite a lot of recent progress in strengthening voting opportunities for all New Mexicans, New Mexico still lags behind other states in our percentage of citizens that are registered to vote and the number of folks who exercise that right at election time,” said Senator Katy Duhigg (D-Albuquerque), one of the sponsors of this bill. Those in support of the bill spoke about how changes to the election code will help marginalized communities gain access.

House Bill 4 updates and makes changes to New Mexico’s election code. Changes would include creating a permanent absentee ballot voter list people can opt into, allowing a convicted felon the right to vote once released from prison, enacting the Native American Voting Rights Act, and automatically enrolling confirmed qualified voters when they prove citizenship at the MVD.

Those opposed said many already distrust the election system and this opens the door to more fraud. “Our existing system already has problems and the changes that I see in this bill that are being proposed take it the wrong way to fix what does appear to be issues with our elections. The way to go is really paper ballots, voter ID, in-person, hand-counted limited absentee with severe restrictions to make elections safe,” one person in opposition said.

The bill also includes provisions for keeping voter data more secure, and mandates two secure containers or drop boxes be available in each county for better voting access. Senator Katy Duhigg said New Mexico is 48th in the nation in terms of people who are eligible but haven’t registered to vote.

This bill passed the Senate Rules Committee on a five to two vote. It now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee.