After a long day of debate, state senators opt to take up voting rights this week

By: - February 4, 2022 7:31 pm

(Photo by Ralph Freso / Getty Images)

Legislation to expand voting rights looks like it is moving forward without a major provision that would have granted 16-year-olds the right to vote in local elections.

After a nine-hour debate that included more than four hours of public comment and a handful of amendments, Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto said the Senate Rules Committee would vote on the proposal, dubbed Voters’ Rights Provisions, this week.

Senate Bill 8 survived multiple attempts by the committee to gut key components of the bill, such as automatic voter registration for people who are released from incarceration that have met their conditions of release, and a provision that will give New Mexicans the option to request absentee ballots just one time and receive it for every election after that they are on the voter rolls.

The bill was originally scheduled to be heard Monday. An amended version was submitted Wednesday.

Expanding the right to vote in local elections to 16-year-olds will likely not be in the bill that the committee will vote on.

Ivey-Soto’s (D-Albuquerque) amendment to strike that provision was replaced with one that is similar to the law already on the books. Currently, 17-year-olds can register to vote in general elections as long as they are 18 by election day. Under the amendment to the voter bill, 17-year-olds would be able to register and vote in any election on the year they turn 18 as long as their birthday is before Election Day. 

Some local communities have elections months before November, and this would open up primary elections for those about turn 18. 

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said she was disappointed that portion of the bill didn’t make it through committee but is hopeful the majority of the legislation can make it through the 30-day legislative session. 

“I really would still like to see 16-year-olds have the option to vote in school board elections, in particular — local elections, potentially,” she said. “So much of the bill is still there. And that’s not to take away the potential rights of 16-year-olds at all. But I do think we have a really great bill that does so much for voters in New Mexico.” 

The measure could still be amended again on the Senate floor. Or if it is approved by the full Senate, it could be changed by the House, where it would also have to pass before the end of the legislative session. 

If the bill passes through the Rules Committee, it will still need to be heard by one more committee before it heads to vote by the full Senate. 

The New Mexico Legislature is scheduled to conclude Feb. 17.

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Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and his ancestry also includes Jemez and Zuni on the maternal side of his family. He grew up in Albuquerque and Gallup. He brings a decade of print and broadcast news experience. Most recently he covered Indigenous affairs with New Mexico In Depth. Shaun reports on issues important to Native Americans in urban and tribal communities throughout the state, including education and child welfare.