Dems Approve New ‘Voting Rights Act’ To Stop GOP Attacks On Mail-In Voting

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The New Mexico state House has passed a piece of legislation protecting voting rights for people in the state, representing yet another front where Democrats at the state level have found the opportunity to address some of the gaps in policy at the national level.

Efforts to create new protections for voting rights in Congress have encountered hurdles including GOP opposition and the commitment of Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to the Senate’s filibuster rules, which ordinarily demand that at least 60 Senators across the chamber, which has 100 members, agree on an initiative before moving forward. In New Mexico, the new legislation would, among other changes, create automatic voter registration available through means like submitting information for other purposes to the state’s civilian transportation authority and allow individuals formerly incarcerated for felony offenses to regain the right to vote once out of jail instead of only once fully done with their sentences, including portions outside of state custody.

These initiatives both mirror policy pushes that have been seen elsewhere. The legislation, if passed by the state’s other legislative chamber and signed by the governor, would also create an evidently permanent registry for residents of New Mexico seeking to vote by mail, meaning that individuals who opt to receive their ballots in such a way would continue receiving their ballots through successive elections. Also provided by the legislation would be the opportunity for an expanded number of drop boxes for absentee ballots in individual counties. Both of these areas are also similar to initiatives recorded elsewhere. The bill seems likely to be made law, considering Dems currently control the state Senate in New Mexico, and a Democrat serves as that state’s governor, although similar legislation introduced in last year’s legislative session wasn’t successfully passed.

Some of the areas of concern reflected by the initiative deal with potential procedural hurdles that make voting more difficult without any kind of evidence of systematic fraud somehow making upending the electoral process warranted.

Javier Martínez, the current Speaker of the state House, who was among those behind this legislation, was among the government officials in New Mexico evidently targeted in a series of firearms attacks by failed Republican candidate for office Solomon Peña, who tasked a group of other individuals with helping him carry out the violence, although he was also himself present for at least one incident. No injuries were seemingly reported in connection to what happened, but bullets fired at the residence of a different state legislator went into that lawmaker’s young daughter’s bedroom. Police nabbed an inroad in addressing the violence when stopping one of Peña’s co-conspirators while that individual drove a vehicle registered in Peña’s name.

Martínez is persistent. “People deserve the right to pick and choose who leads them,” he recently said. “Under my speakership, whether it lasts two years or goes far into the future, you can rest assured that we will protect people’s voting rights.” The bill, as proposed and passed by the House, also protects voting rights for Indigenous communities, including by allowing certain non-traditional addresses on applications for voting registration. In some such communities, residents don’t demarcate where they live with the kind of lingo that’s commonly used elsewhere.