Senate Bill Would Require Check of Voter File for Noncitizens
SANTA FE, Jan 24, 2013 (Albuquerque Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The secretary of state would be required to check New Mexico's voter file to make sure noncitizens aren't registered to vote, under a bill sponsored by a Senate Republican leader.
Minority Whip Bill Payne, R-Albuquerque, described his proposal as a simple way to ensure the integrity of elections.
The legislation, Senate Bill 209, would require that the state voter file be checked against a federal database "periodically."
If the check turned up noncitizens -- who aren't eligible to vote -- on the voter rolls, the secretary of state could petition a state district court to cancel the noncitizen's registration.
"Periodically, you just make sure that people that are signing up to vote are citizens," Payne said. "It's simple. It doesn't require anybody to show up, or have IDs, or anything else." Payne said there would be another benefit to the bill: giving the secretary of state more clout as she tries to get access to a federal database that provides immigration status.
Secretary of State Dianna Duran sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in July requesting an agreement under which she could get access to the database; she said Wednesday that she hasn't had any response.
Duran said she made the request because she wanted to compare the database to state voter rolls.
"It's important that we only have persons eligible to vote register to vote in New Mexico. ... We don't have anything to determine whether the voter is actually a citizen or not," she said.
She cited the cases of three people who "self-reported" and notified officials that they were registered to vote but were not citizens.
Duran previously has compared voter records to Motor Vehicle Division records, and she told lawmakers in late 2011 that her review turned up 19 people who had voted in one or more New Mexico elections but probably were not U.S. citizens.
Payne said he decided to introduce the bill after he saw a television news report about two noncitizens who were registered to vote, one of whom had voted 26 times since 1998.
"I suspect there's a lot of that that has gone on," the lawmaker said.
Common Cause New Mexico Executive Director Viki Harrison said that although her organization supports clean voter rolls, using federal databases to purge voter lists "has proven to be a disaster in other states because information in the databases are often incorrect and outdated, causing valid U.S. citizens to be removed from the rolls and therefore unable to vote."
"We would like to see the Legislature focus on making elections free, fair and accessible to eligible voters instead of taking the risk that we will remove valid citizens," she said.
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