Voter ID Bills Fail in Committee

By Matthew Reichbach

Three voter ID bills failed in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday on party-line votes.

The Democrats on the committee voted to table the three bills that would have required voters show photo identification, siding with the majority of the crowd at the hearing who said the bill would disenfranchise young, elderly, minority and disabled voters as well as costing significantly more than the Fiscal Impact Report predicted.

The three pieces of legislation, all sponsored by Republicans, were tabled after a lengthy hearing process that included over half an hour of public comment.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Dianne Hamilton (R-Silver City) would have allowed voters to use the last four numbers of their Social Security Number to prove their identity at the polls. The version of ID legislation sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R-Carlsbad) would require a government-issued photo ID to vote in person and, to cast an absentee ballot, a copy of the photo ID would be required.

The bill sponsored by Rep. James Smith (R-Sandia Park) was the result of work during the interim by county clerks and Smith. A complex bill, it was one that the county clerks would prefer to the other voter ID approaches, according to the county clerks association lobbyist Daniel Ivey-Soto.

Opponents rallied against the bills

An array of organizations, ranging from the League of Women Voters to Disability Rights New Mexico to the Native American Voters Alliance, opposed the legislation on the grounds that it would disenfranchise voters and would do little to solve purported voter fraud.

The majority of the crowd present in the committee room were in opposition.

Rep. Moe Maestas (D-Albuquerque) said he didn’t believe that voter fraud was a problem in the state, comparing it to the “bogeyman.”

“If my constituents want me to introduce legislation to outlaw the bogeyman, I can introduce legislation to outlaw the bogeyman, or I can gently explain to them that the bogeyman does not exist,” Maestas said to laughter from the crowd.

Committee chair Gail Chasey (D-Albuquerque) opposed the bills and singled out Smith’s bill as overly complicating the absentee ballot, saying, “I find the absentee ballot daunting as it is.”

And Rep. Bill O’Neill (D-Albuquerque) said he the claims of voter fraud all seemed to be based on anecdotes rather than any real evidence.

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Duelling Roundhouse Rallies: Occupy and Tea Party at Session’s Opening Day

By Matthew Reichbach

The Tea Party has been a force in politics, especially among conservatives, since it gained prominence in 2009. The New Mexico groups gathered for their third rally at the Roundhouse on Tuesday — but this time, the Tea Party had company.

Occupy groups from around the state gathered on the east side of the Roundhouse — and outnumbered the Tea Party protesters on the opposite side of the Roundhouse.

The two rallies had similarities — crowds of New Mexicans holding signs and cheering on speeches from speakers. But the similarities were superficial.

The Occupy crowd was filled with signs calling for the end of corporate involvement in campaigns and signs in Spanish opposing Martinez’s proposal to repeal drivers license for undocumented immigrants. The Tea Party signs were in support of the drivers license repeal and called for mandatory voter identification at the polls.

What the crowed responded to was different as well. The largest applause line at the Tea Party rally was when Lt. Gov. John Sanchez said, “The first thing we need to do is elect a new President.” At the Occupy rally, a large cheer went up when state Sen. Eric Griego said, “money isn’t speech — we need corporations out.”

Griego also signed the 99 Pledge in front of the crowd.

The Democratic state Senator, who is running for Congress in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, said he would support a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizen’s United, the controversial Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to contribute unlimited amounts of money in support or opposition to a political candidate.

At the Tea Party rally, Marita K. Noon, head of the energy group CARE, railed against the possible listing of the Sand Dune Lizard as an endangered species. Opposition to the listing of the lizard has become cause célèbre for conservatives, especially Congressman Steve Pearce (R-NM).

The Occupy group ultimately received more media attention for an attempted — though unsuccessful — “mic check” of Martinez at the beginning of her State of the State address. The Occupy protesters involved were quickly ushered out of the room.

Odds and Ends

  • The two candidates with major presences at the Tea Party rally were Rick Newton, a Republican running for Congress in New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, and Greg Sowards, running for U.S. Senate.
  • The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that there “were no major confrontations between the two groups.”