SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) –Democrat-backed efforts to expand voter access in New Mexico are coming to fruition with the delayed rollout of same-day voter registration.
The first trial run took place in a low-turnout special congressional election on June 1, allowing voters to register at early voting centers in the final weeks of balloting and Election Day. In all, 2,012 residents seized on the opportunity to register in the final four weeks of the election, according to the New Mexico secretary of state’s office.
Previously, voter registration was halted 28 days before any election. Changes were brought on by a 2019 bill, approved on a party-line vote with Republicans in opposition, that opened the door to same-day registration — with a two-year delay for implementation.
This year, late-registering voters flocked primarily to the Democratic Party, accounting for about 53% of those registrations — and 50% of registrations on Election Day. About 32% of late registrations aligned with the Republican Party.
U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury won the election with 60% of the vote to fill the 1st Congressional District seat health by Deb Haaland.
Democrats account for 47% of registered voters statewide. Republicans account for 28%. Unaffiliated voter hold a 23% share.
Same day registration is likely to be an option in future elections, but it requires approval each time by a panel of voting systems regulators. Approval is pending for the November local election to pick mayors in cities including Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
“We’re hopeful that they will because same-day registration is clearly a tool that allows more New Mexicans to participate, and its use would be even wider in a statewide election,” said Alex Curtas, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.
Election reforms this year aimed at ensuring access to polling sites in Native American communities and providing public financing to state district court campaigns.
Pandemic lockdowns at many of the state’s 23 federal recognized Indigenous tribes during the June 2020 primary election triggered the closure or consolidation of voting sites. That ensured outside voters would not be turned away, but also made it harder or impossible for some tribal residents to vote.