Monday, January 12, 2009

Same Day Voter Registration in New Mexico?

I hope so, anyways. Back in November it came out that New Mexico was considering Election Day Voter Registration (you can read some of that old news here and here). Well, its on the table in the New Mexico State Legislature, which begins its 2009 session on January 20th. You can read the draft of the bill here. The way the bill is currently written, any person who is allowed to vote and not registered at the time early voting begins or on Election Day can show up at their precinct with the proper voter identification requirements and register to vote. 

There is a somewhat minor problem with the bill as it is (depending on how you look at it). It requires that a unregistered voter present themselves at the precinct in which they are supposed to vote had they been registered before the standard deadline. The way elections are currently run in New Mexico makes this somewhat difficult. The poll worker in charge of registering the voter would have to call the County Clerk's office and have them figure out if the voter was in the correct precinct. This might be ok if there aren't that many people who are registering when they vote, and it assumes that the poll worker could actually reach the Clerk's office. Polling locations on Election Day are currently not equipped with computers that would allow poll workers to verify where the person is supposed to vote (not to mention the terrible lack of internet access in many rural areas of New Mexico). And, many Clerk's offices do not have enough phone lines dedicated to dealing with Election Day issues. These are minor problems as long as someone has the foresight to deal with these technological issues before the next election. I'm not that worried about the bigger counties, but the smaller, primarily rural counties are likely have more problems. 

I hope this passes. Updating polling places in New Mexico with computers with internet access would really help reduce a number of other issues like registered voters showing up at the wrong location without being able to find their correct precinct, and helping reduce the number of provisional voters, which tend to bog down the final tallying of votes.