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Voting rights provisions move forward as part of another bill as session nears end

New Mexico's "Roundhouse," as locals call it, has been busy during the legislature's 60-day session.

After a bill expanding voting rights in New Mexico got hung up on the Senate floor, a version of it remains alive as the 30-day legislative session nears its end.

The New Mexico Voting Rights Act - or SB 8 - has been stalled on the Senate floor since Saturday when Republicans successfully blocked its hearing using a procedural motion.

Key aspects of it are now moving forward again after Rep. Daymon Ely Tuesday evening included them as part of lengthy amendments to SB 144 – a bill about protecting election workers from intimidation – in the House Judiciary committee. The amendments also included key parts of SB 6, focused on election security.

Opponents criticized the move, but the committee chair, Democratic Rep. Gail Chasey, said folding multiple, similarly-themed bills together at the last minute like this is common.

“It happens every time,” said Chasey, acknowledging her own and others’ frustration over the process. “And I wish we had a little more time to do our jobs, but this is what we have.”

The amended bill contains key provisions of SB 8, including restoring voting rights upon release from prison, instituting a permanent absentee voter list, making Election Day a school holiday, and adjusting the ballot drop box requirement to two per county.

Sec. of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has been backing the voting rights bill throughout the session.

“While I would have preferred to pass Senate Bill 8, Senate Bill 6, and Senate Bill 144 each on their own volition and their own merits, I understand that this is the place we are now,” she said, thanking the bill sponsors for their efforts at preserving the most important aspects of each bill.

The amended Senate Bill 144 must now be heard on the House floor. If passed there, the Senate will need to accept the significant changes before the session ends Thursday at noon.


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