SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A Democrat-backed bill to expand voting access in New Mexico received a crucial endorsement Monday from a Senate panel, reviving prospects for legislative approval.
The committee voted 7-4 along party lines with Republicans in opposition to a bill that would make Election Day a holiday to encourage voting, streamline mail-in voting and further automate voter registration procedures at state government offices. The bill also would provide convicted felons with the opportunity to register to vote as they exit prison.
A least one more committee vetting lies ahead before the bill can reach a Senate vote, and pass to the House for consideration. Lawmakers have until Feb. 17 to approve legislation during a rapid-fire 30-day legislative session.
The initiative from legislators including Democratic Senate majority leader Peter Wirth has the support of New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who both are running for reelection this year.
Wirth says New Mexico has an obligation to bolster access to voting as Republican-led states including neighboring Texas impose new restrictions on ballot access, and federal voting rights legislation remains stalled in Congress.
Republicans have said the bill undermines voting security and needs further vetting.
The bill also would allow voter registration with the use of student identification documents from an accredited college or university. In-person voter registration would extended to Election Day. The current deadline is Saturday prior to elections.