Lawmakers clash over student ID for voting

·2 min read

Jan. 26—SANTA FE — New Mexico would establish new rules for poll challengers and same-day voter registration under a bipartisan election proposal moving forward at the Capitol.

In a hearing Wednesday, the bill triggered a clash over whether a student identification card should be acceptable as ID when someone registers to vote on Election Day — a debate lawmakers are expected to pick up later.

State law now requires a photo ID for same-day voter registration.

The proposal, Senate Bill 6, would clarify that a driver's license or other government-issued ID would be required, not simply a student ID.

But Democrats who objected to the provision said they will try to amend the bill at a future hearing or revise the ID requirement in separate legislation.

The 250-page proposal would update a host of procedures outlined in New Mexico election laws. In some cases, it would make permanent temporary election provisions started during the pandemic, including an 11 p.m. halt to absentee-vote counting on election night, with work resuming the next morning.

The legislation is backed by county clerks and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver. It's jointly sponsored by Sens. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, and Crystal Diamond, R-Elephant Butte.

Under the proposal, training would be required for poll watchers and challengers. It would also prohibit someone from serving as a watcher or challenger if they had previously been removed from the role by election officials for violating election rules.

Debate over voter identification ignited the most debate Wednesday.

Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, won approval for an amendment — accepted by Ivey-Soto — that would clarify that someone must show a government-issued ID, not one from school or college, to register and vote on Election Day.

Some Democrats objected, contending younger voters may not have a driver's license and that allowing student IDs would protect their right to vote.

Moores, in turn, accused Democrats of refusing to compromise with Republicans on a bill otherwise positioned to pick up bipartisan support and strengthen confidence in elections.

"If you guys don't want to work with us, don't even bring us to the table next time," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said the voter ID provision is a reasonable policy question and that Moores himself had proposed language adjusting the rule.

"There's legitimate discussion about how to do this," Wirth said.

The language supported by Moores, in any case, is now part of the bill, though amendments could surface as the proposal moves forward.

The measure cleared the Senate Rules Committee without opposition and heads next to the Senate Finance Committee, potentially its last stop before reaching the full chamber.