One man in Nambé improperly voted in 26 elections since 1998 as a registered Democrat.
A woman in Sandoval County had illegally cast a ballot in nearly every election since 2005, registering as a Republican.
Both people were legal residents but not citizens of the US and came forward to New Mexico election officials after they learned their actions jeopardized their chances of becoming full-fledged citizens.
“All I want to do is just have my conscience clean, to not be doing what I wasn’t supposed to do,” the man from Nambé told KOB-TV.
Now a Republican state senator has introduced Senate Bill 209 in the current 60-day legislative session aimed at cleaning up the voter rolls — but he insists it’s not a voter ID bill, a red-flag issue for Democrats.
“This bill requires the (New Mexico) Secretary of State to go to the federal government periodically and make sure our voters rolls are not tainted by non-voters registering,” said Sen. Bill Payne, R-Albuquerque. “It can be by accident, it can be by fraud. I don’t care the reason why people might have been registered. This just allows the opportunity to purge those rolls with due process.”
But the bill has already attracted opposition from Common Cause New Mexico, a non-profit that bills itself as an advocate for government reform and accountability that supports many left-of-center issues.
“Those (federal) databases are notoriously unreliable,” Viki Harrison, the group’s executive director said. “That’s our concern — that we’ll disenfranchise qualified New Mexicans from voting.”
“”The federal government maintains citizenship databases,” Sen. Payne countered. “We don’t in the state … (if we can’t rely on federal databases) I don’t know whose database we rely on.”
SB209 is a very short bill, simply stating in one page that “The secretary of state shall periodically check the state voter file database against an appropriate federal database to determine if any voter in the state voter file is a non-citizen.”
Payne says passing the bill would give the Secretary of State’s Office the ability to force the federal government to provide the state information from national voter rolls.
“We already have laws on the books,” Harrison said, “and it’s a felony if you vote illegally … that’s where the rub is for me.”
“This isn’t voter ID,” Payne said. “This doesn’t require a voter to do anything. This (deals with) voters who have already checked a box saying, ‘I am a US citizen and I’m eligible to vote’ and it just verifies those rolls are accurate. It’s just a double-check on the system. It doesn’t require any action from any voter. It doesn’t prevent anyone from voting.”
The bill has been assigned first to the Senate Rules Committee, which is comprised of six Democrats and four Republicans.
What are the chances of survival for SB209?
“I think when people understand it, it should be good,” Payne said. “But I’ve been here long enough to know better.”
By the way, the fate of the man from Nambé and the woman from Sandoval County? According to the KOB-TV report, neither has been charged with a crime because statutorily, too much time has passed since they registered to pursue prosecution.