SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Elections and election security have been hot topics in recent years. Now, New Mexico’s legislators are looking to make some changes to how New Mexico runs elections.
Senate Bill 180, sponsored by three Democratic legislators, would change some of the rules surround elections. For example, the bill would let election candidates collect digital signatures, in addition to paper signatures; it would require the state to operate an “election security organization”; and would require mandatory training for election watchers, among other things.
“All of the changes that are in this bill are born from actual experiences of New Mexico’s election administrators,” bill co-sponsor Sen. Katy M. Duhigg (D-Rio Rancho) told the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on Monday, March 6. “A lot of this is stuff that was adopted temporarily during the 2020 election. “
Under the bill, poll workers could also get more pay. And the bill adds security measures to absentee ballots, Duhigg said. For example, the bill would require the last four digits of a person’s social security in order to submit absentee ballots.
Some members of the public spoke against the bill, particularly noting a range of security concerns. Others expressed worry that the bill could lead to partisan control over the state’s elections and that the bill would make elections less transparent by changing what info is considered public under the state’s public records rules.
For example, the bill would let the Secretary of State designate officials’ home addresses as confidential. That proposed change comes after the high-profile shootings at elected officials’ homes.
Other members of the public, including multiple county clerks, spoke in favor of the bill. Supporters noted the bill offers a fair wage to election workers and may help boost election staff.
Legislators were split on the bill. Rep. John Block (R-Alamogordo), expressed concern over potential decrease in transparency if officials are allowed to keep their home addresses off of official paperwork: “How can the citizen independently verify if their representative lives in their district?” Block asked. In response, Duhigg said that there are other ways a citizen can verify that if they want.
As Block continued with additional questions about the bill, the length of questioning became an apparent concern with some lawmakers. Committee Chair Rep. D. Wonda Johnson (D-McKinley & San Juan) asked Block, “Can you please wrap up your questions?”
Republican Rep. William “Bill” R. Rehm (R-Abq.) defended Block. “Point of order: He gets to ask as many as he wants,” Rehm said. “And [the bill] is almost 200 pages.” Chair Johnson fired back at Rehm, calling some of Block’s questioning “speculation.”
Ultimately, the committee voted to pass the bill. But the three Republicans in the committee voted against the bill. It’s already been approved by the New Mexico Senate and next heads to the House Judiciary Committee.