SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Democratic leaders announced their intent to expand voting rights and access to people across New Mexico with what they’re calling the 2023 Voting Rights Act. A group of top Democratic lawmakers announced Tuesday they want to expand access to mail-in voting, make it easier for formerly incarcerated people to vote, and create provisions to help Native Communities have better access to vote.

“There’s always room for improvement. We can always be doing a better job. We can always be making our elections more secure, more accurate, more fair, and expand access. None of these things are mutually exclusive. We can walk and chew gum at the same time,” says New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver.

Speaker of the House Javier Martinez joined Toulouse Oliver and sponsors and advocates for this bill to express their goal to keep New Mexico on the cutting edge of voter’s rights. Advocates say other provisions in the bill include better protections for voter’s data, as well as the creation of a permanent ‘opt-in’ absentee ballot voter list.

Members of advocacy groups spoke about what this voting rights act would mean for them. “Participation in the functions of society means that I no longer resort to self-harm, substance abuse, isolation that attributes to bad choices and incarceration,” says Justin Allen with OLÉ New Mexico.

“Native Americans face obstacles at every turn throughout the political process. This bill will increase voter participation and access across the state by addressing many of these barriers with provisions for Native American voters,” says Ahtza Dawn Chavez with New Mexico Native Vote.

The New Mexico Secretary of State says she and the governor spear-headed a similar bill last session, but it failed after a stall tactic by Senator Bill Sharer. He went on a lengthy filibuster to delay a vote.

Lawmakers highlighted that this 60-day session is the time to try to push this bill through – to ‘safeguard democracy’ according to Martinez – especially after a recent spate of political violence in the state.

Lawmakers say the bill will be filed later this week, where we’ll get a better look at the new provisions. Advocates say one key difference from last year’s voting rights bill is that it is not asking to allow people under 18 to vote.