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As absentee voting triples in New Mexico, legislators consider making the option permanent

U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeff Kelly
Creative Commons

Legislation moving through the state Senate aims to make absentee voting easier. The proposal reflects a large uptick in this kind of voting during the pandemic.

More than three times as many New Mexico voters cast an absentee ballot in 2020 than on average in the last several elections, according to a new report out of the University of New Mexico Political Science Department.

In a press conference Wednesday, Jan. 26, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said these kinds of studies aren’t just academic exercises.

“Part of why we’re looking to create a permanent vote-by-mail option for voters in New Mexico is as a result of this level of satisfaction that we’ve seen from this report,” she said.

The state’s voters currently have to request an absentee ballot for each individual election. The New Mexico Voting Rights Act would allow voters to opt in to always receive one.

Voters can be removed from the list for a number of reasons, including not submitting their ballot two elections in a row or getting it returned to sender.

The study also recommends several ways to improve mail-in voting that are not reflected in the legislation. These include a means for people to report they’ve received a ballot for someone who doesn’t live with them, notifying a voter about whether their ballot has been accepted, and creating a consequence for turning in a ballot for someone other than an immediate family member, which is against the law.

The bill is expected to be heard in the Senate Rules Committee Monday, Jan. 30.

This story is part of our Your New Mexico Government project, a collaboration between KUNM Radio and New Mexico PBS. Support for public media provided by the Thornburg Foundation.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.