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New Mexico has steadily expanded access to voting since Democrats took control of state government in 2018, but continues to disenfranchise citizens convicted of felonies.

Starting this year, people in New Mexico can register to vote up to and on Election Day. Previously, voters had to register at least 28 days before Election Day. 

“With this still being a new method of registration, it will take a few years to see a statistical impact that can be analyzed,” said Mario Jimenez, campaign director at Common Cause New Mexico. “During the 2022 primary election, New Mexico saw over 10,000 residents utilize same-day voter registration. A number that is sure to grow during the 2024 presidential election year.” 

Studies have drawn the connection between same-day voter registration and higher turnout, especially among voters of color. New Mexico ranked 44th in voter turnout during the 2020 election, according to the MIT Elections Performance Index

Same-day voter registration

Studies have shown a relationship between poverty and lower voting rates.  

New Mexico is the third poorest state in the country, with a median household income of about $51,000 and the sixth highest unemployment rate at 4.4%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics

However, since Democrats took control of the state legislature and governor’s office in 2018, there has been a sense of urgency in addressing inequity in access to voting.

Last year, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a new law preventing the closure or consolidation of polling places on Native lands without the tribe’s agreement, which was a major issue in 2020 during the pandemic. 

About this series

This project looks at the state of voting access, voting rights and inequities in political representation in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Last year a bipartisan voting certification committee also approved registration up to and on Election Day. It was tested last summer during the special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, after she was appointed Interior Secretary, and became permanent this election cycle. 

The effects of the law have been immediately felt. 

Of the 10,000 new registered voters who took advantage of same-day registration in June, Republicans exceeded Democrats by 700 voters, according to The Durango Herald.

Felony disenfranchisement

New Mexico is one of 16 states that strips voting rights from anyone who is incarcerated, on parole, or on probation with a felony conviction. 

Felony disenfranchisement has its roots in the post-Civil War period when a wave of laws sprung up across the country to stifle the gains and rights of newly emancipated people.

Nationally, approximately 5.2 million people are prohibited from voting because they have a felony conviction. Over 17,000 live in New Mexico, according to the American Civil Liberties Union

Earlier this year, New Mexico Democrats introduced a bill to automatically restore voting rights to people with felony convictions once they are released from prison, rather than require them to formally re-apply, but the bill failed in committee

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DeArbea Walker is a freelance digital journalist who’s covered everything from the intersection of...