ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Convicted felons in New Mexico may soon get a chance to register to vote as they get ready to be released from custody. A new bill being introduced during the upcoming legislative session is beginning to turn some heads from critics.
House Bill 74 would allow convicted felons to register to vote before they finish their probation or parole. Right now, state law does not allow for that.
Senior Policy Strategist, Barron Jones, of the ACLU says this is a great way to get convicted felons reintegrated back into society. “First step to repair communities destroyed by years and years of tough on crime policies,” he says.
Jones was a convicted felon himself and remembers how difficult it was for him to get his life back. He says HB74, sponsored by Representative Gail Chasey (Albuquerque-D), is the step in the right direction for people looking to become productive members of their communities.
While felons who currently are behind bars are not allowed to vote, this bill will let those who are about to get out of prison to be able to register to vote. Once they are out and have finished their parole or probation, then they are allowed to vote.
This has been a long-standing argument across the nation for years, and it has its critics. Rep. Gregg Schmedes (Tijeras-R) believes this bill is too aggressive.
“What this bill is proposing is keeping ineligible voters on our voter rolls. Telling our county clerks that they need to keep people who are legally not allowed to vote on the voter rolls,” he says.
Rep. Schmedes also believes this bill would turn the state into a safe haven for criminals and endanger the state. At the moment, the bill applies to all convicted felons.
If an inmate was not a registered voter before incarceration, the Department of Corrections will step in and help them register. The bill would also allow the governor to give felons convicted of a federal crime the right to vote in state elections.