The automatic voter registration election legislation announced on Wednesday by three Albuquerque Democrats is the local front of the nationwide “voting wars” between Democrats and Republicans.
The drive for Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) “has taken off across the country” according to an April 2016 report by the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan think tank. The report said 2016 saw “more automatic voter registration bills introduced than any other kind of voting legislation”.
According to J. Christian Adams, creator of the conservative Election Law Center blog, voter ID laws are really “yesterday’s fight”. Voter rolls – how they are maintained, expanded, and purged – are now at the forefront of the voting access fight.
Proponents of AVR like to say more people voting makes government more accountable. Indeed, having every single eligible voter participate in the election process is important. But just as we should ensure every eligible voter participates, we should also make sure those who are not legally entitled to vote do not dilute the vote of those who are.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver says that implementing AVR would make processing voter registrations easier since it is “less labor intensive”. Another leader of the effort Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto, the “Legislature’s recognized expert on election law”, claims AVR will reduce costs but could not provide specifics on how automatic voter registration would work. Curiously their talking points make no mention of the apparent tradeoff between claims of less work for government workers and the overall integrity of the voter rolls.
Senator Ivey-Soto’s government experience is vast. He has served as a lobbyist for the New Mexico County Clerks, a former state elections director for the Secretary of State, and was general counsel for the state Democratic Party.
In January 2007, the Albuquerque Tribune reported that Daniel Ivey-Soto told county elections officials voter fraud exists: “I have been in conversations with people who have told me that, at various times, they’ve voted more than once on Election Day.…It happens.”
When they asked him if he could guarantee same-day voter registration laws would not cause more voter fraud, Ivey-Soto replied, “I can’t … but I can’t guarantee there isn’t fraud going on now.…I know people who have gone on Election Day and voted multiple times because they knew people who weren’t going to vote. I’ve never participated in that, but I know people who have.”
Senator Ivey-Soto has resisted voter ID efforts and asserts requiring citizens to produce a utility bill or bank statement is enough to safeguard against fraud. Evidently we are led to assume any previous voting abnormalities are no longer an issue and that legislation such as AVR that expands voting access will pose no threat to the integrity of the election process.
While it is unlikely voter fraud exists on the scale President-elect Trump has claimed, President Obama’s comments calling voter fraud “fake news” unfairly dismisses documented voter irregularities and an honest discussion about maintaining a voter registration system that is fair and accurate. By pursuing the legislation as a constitutional amendment, the current proposal would not need the Governor’s approval and, if approved by a majority of both chambers, would appear on the general election ballot in November 2018.