New Mexico's First Time Voters

According to the Secretary of State's Office , since May of this year, New Mexico's voter registration jumped from approximately 958,000 to a little over 1 million. This represents an incredible increase of potential voters—possibly all new ones. Clearly, this surge can be credited to all the groups that have prioritized voter registration (SFR's Hip Hop Voter Project included, although our numbers are relatively small and our focus intentionally narrow).

But these new voters also have attracted negative attention. Next week, arguments continue in state The Supreme Court over whether to require them to show IDs at the pollls. This week, US Sen. Pete Domenici, R-NM, introduced legislation to mandate that and expressed his belief that NM courts could not be counted on to rule fairly in this matter because the judges were all Democrats.

The problems are that in some counties, clerks are planning to require new voters to show ID, which some argue is required under the new HAVA act. Others say the groups registering voters were required to see ID from new voters, but that there is no way of knowing if they did or not. Whatever the case, the entire situation certainly could discourage new voters from going to the polls. Clearly, at the pragmatic level, showing an ID shouldn't be that big a deal. Most people have an ID. But for new citizens, perhaps, this could be intimidating. Not to mention that, if some people have to show IDs at the polls, and others don't, it's possible for poll workers to use the tactic to intimidate people.

This week I interviewed Denise Lamb, director of the state's Bureau of Elections, for an interview that will be in next week's SFR. Without giving away the interview, we discussed how rough this election has become, particularly in New Mexico. There are numerous court cases and the partisanship is at an all-time high. All for our five electoral votes. The right and the left have made this presidential election into a battle that, at this point, seems to not have as much to do with the difference in ideologies of the Democrat and Republican parties. This is a bloodfest, a level of divisiveness that people in my generation have never seen before. And given the level of technology available today, and the legal remedies that have become commonplace, it feels different than how I imagine the '60s must have felt. We aren't taking to the streets, we aren't trying to change the world, left or right. We're trying to outpress, outmaneuver, outspam, outlegal, outexhaust the other side. This is about psychological warfare, about spin. This is politics in the 21st century and, quite frankly, it's about the most depressing spectacle I've ever seen.

OK, here's the article on Domenici's legislation (Oh, by the way, if this upsets you, just remember that he wins re-election term after term after term, despite the fact that there are more Democrats than Republicans in New Mexico.)

September 22, 2004

Domenici would require voter ID

By James W. Brosnan
Scripps Howard News Service

"WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici wants Congress, not the Democrats he says fill New Mexico courts, to decide when state voters have to show identification.

The Albuquerque Republican introduced legislation Tuesday to require first-time voters in all states to show proof of identification if their voter registration form was not submitted in person to election officials.

That issue will be argued in the New Mexico Supreme Court next week.

But Domenici told New Mexico radio outlets Monday that some of the decisions made by New Mexico judges on election matters have been "pathetic."

"I am convinced you can't fix it in the state courts because every state judge I know - and I hate to say it because they are nice guys and nice ladies – they all are, with few exceptions, partisan Democrats," said Domenici. "They know what's going on, and they won't rule if there's a chance it will be anything positive for Republicans."

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