- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Democrats in New Mexico are rushing to change the state’s voting laws ahead of this year’s midterm elections that are expected to be particularly bruising for the party.

The proposal would lower the voting age to 16 for local elections, expand the use of mail-in ballots, create an option for straight party-line voting on ballots and remove a prohibition on voting by convicted felons, though felons would not be allowed to vote from prison.

Led by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Democratic state lawmakers are proposing a sweeping rewrite of elections laws to push back on what they say is a “wave of anti-democratic sentiment nationwide.”

“Protecting voting rights is essential to upholding our democracy and ensuring New Mexicans’ voices are heard,” said Mrs. Lujan Grisham, a Democrat who also is facing a tough reelection battle this year. “While voting rights are under attack across the country, New Mexico is taking every action to protect and expand them.”

Mrs. Lujan Grisham’s proposal also would permit people without a state-issued ID to register online to vote using a Social Security number. Her plan would also designate Election Day as a state holiday.

Republicans said the legislation is nothing short of a “power grab” by Democrats. They say that Mrs. Lujan Grisham, whose approval rating has fallen amid backlash over coronavirus restrictions and sexual harassment accusations, is moving to rewrite New Mexico’s election laws in favor of Democrats.

“The polls are definitely showing that this is a majority-minority state where Hispanics are prepared, willing and ready to vote Republican,” said state Rep. Rebecca Dow, a GOP lawmaker leading the fight against the proposals. “Democrats know there is a GOP wave coming and they’re doing everything they can to stop it.”

Mrs. Dow and her colleagues point to provisions within the Democratic proposal, including allowing straight-party voting, as proof. Straight-party voting, which is utilized by several other states, allows individuals to check a box on their ballot if they want to vote for one party’s entire slate of candidates.

“There has been no need for such laws in the past,” Mrs. Dow said. “This is a solution in search of an answer.”

New Mexico’s voting law debate starts as President Biden’s elections legislation grinds to a halt in Congress. Democrats in Washington initially hopped to pass a sweeping overhaul that would override new voting laws passed by GOP-run states. That effort, however, was felled by disunity among Senate Democrats.

New Mexico Democrats point to the stalled federal effort as more reason to push through their own voting measures.

“Even as we’ve seen attempts around the country to make voting more difficult for eligible voters, here in New Mexico we continue to be a leader in how to balance the demands for voter access with the needs of maintaining our high levels of election security,” said Maggie Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico’s Democratic secretary of state. “This legislation now gives us the chance to pass one of the most powerful voting rights bills in our state’s history.”

Democrats first expanded voting laws ahead of the 2020 presidential election, saying the COVID-19 pandemic required such action.

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.

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