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Voting rights expansion bill heads to governor

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Voting rights expansion bill heads to governor

Mar 14, 2023 | 6:08 am ET
By Megan Gleason
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Voting rights expansion bill heads to governor
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Legislation that would expand voting rights and voting accessibility is on its way to the governor's desk. (Photo by Shaun Griswold / Source NM)

A bill to expand voting rights and accessibility is on its way to the governor’s desk for her signature.

The House of Representatives on Monday concurred with amendments made to House Bill 4 by a vote of 42-25, split along party lines.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has expressed her support for the voting rights bill and is expected to sign the legislation. Similar legislation died after a filibuster last legislative session.

Lawmakers get closer to passing bill that would expand voting rights and accessibility

This bill would require ballot drop boxes in every county, restore the right to vote for someone convicted of a felony once released from a correctional facility and enact the Native American Voting Rights Act, which includes measures to expand early voting opportunities, boost resources and change precinct boundaries.

That would all start up in July 2023 if the legislation is signed.

There are also provisions to create a permanent absentee voter list and make elections a school holiday. If signed, those sections won’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2024, meaning it wouldn’t be in time for the regular local election in November 2023.

Another section that’ll take a while to start is automatic voter registration, with an opt-out option for voters, at local or state public offices. That would take effect July 2025.

The Senate lawmakers changed a couple of things to the bill while it was on their side. The discussion on Monday was limited to those changes.

One of the amendments clarified the definition of a correctional facility — a public- or private-owned jail, prison or other detention facility confining an adult.

Rep. Randall Pettigrew (R-Lovington) asked if someone convicted of a felony who’s released from detainment but still has to comply with parole standards and wear an ankle bracelet can still vote under this legislation. 

Bill sponsor Rep. Gail Chasey (D-Albuquerque) answered yes but said repeatedly that this question is beyond the scope of that definition amendment.

“I do appreciate you giving me a little bit of latitude,” Pettigrew said. “I was just trying to understand with the new definition of correctional facility if that fell within or outside of that.”

Rep. Stefani Lord (R-Sandia Park) said she’s disappointed a halfway house isn’t a correctional facility under this bill. Rep. Greg Nilbert (R-Roswell) also expressed concern with another change not made to add monitoring provisions to ballot box locations.