SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – New Mexico would designate Election Day as a state holiday to encourage voting and make it easier to request and cast ballots by mail under a suggested legislative proposal outlined Thursday by the state’s top election regulator and governor.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a news release that the suggestions respond to “a wave of anti-democratic sentiment nationwide,” discriminatory ballot access policies in other states, and a refusal by Republicans to fortify voting rights at the federal level. The two Democrats are seeking reelection this year.
They say they want to expand opportunities for online voter registration and create a permanent absentee voter list so qualified residents can automatically receive mail-in ballots before each election.
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Currently, New Mexico voters must request an absentee ballot application before each election in order to vote by mail or ballot drop-off.
The proposal seeks to extend the deadline for accepting marked ballots to 7 p.m. on the Friday after an election, extending the deadline by three days. Lujan Grisham and Toulouse Oliver also want to provide more time in advance of an election for county clerks to distribute absentee ballots to voters.
The announcement coincided with the anniversary of rioters storming the U.S. Capitol and the 110th anniversary of New Mexico’s statehood.
It was unclear who might sponsor related bills as the Legislature prepares for a 30-day legislative session that begins Jan. 18. A bill to create an automated absentee ballot registration list failed in 2021 to reach a floor vote in the Legislature.
“We’ve worked closely with the Legislature on this initiative and it has the support of legislative leadership,” said Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett in an email.
Other proposed voting reforms would lower the minimum voting age to 16 in local elections and restore the option to vote for all candidates from one party by marking a single box.
The Legislature in 2001 abolished straight-ticket voting, and the state Supreme Court in 2018 rejected an effort by Toulouse Oliver to reinstate the system without legislative approval.
Dates for early in-person voting would be expanded to include the Sunday prior to Election Day.
At least 19 states, including Texas, Florida, Georgia and Arizona, have enacted new voting restrictions since the 2020 election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The national GOP campaign to tighten voting laws has been partly driven by former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen.
In Washington, Republican opposition has left a bill that aims to set federal standards for state elections stalled in the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats lack the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Democrats have come under extreme pressure by advocates of the bill to change Senate rules to either eliminate the filibuster outright or carve out an exception for certain bills.
Separately, Lujan Grisham signed a new political map for the New Mexico state Senate, currently dominated by Democrats.
The Senate map embraces recommendations from Native American communities for shoring up Indigenous voting blocs in the northwest of the state.
It would also pit two incumbent Hispanic Republicans against each other for the same seat in the next election. Republicans opposed the map in unison without success.