I read with interest the front page article on Tuesday, May 6, about the meeting of the Chaves County Republicans where they “vowed to take back the House.” The guest speaker was Dianna J. Duran, New Mexico secretary of state. She stated that her office is charged with supervising all of the elections in New Mexico. She went on to state that she favors voters presenting photo ID at the polls in New Mexico because “we need to prevent your vote from being stolen.” In other words, we need to prevent voter fraud or polling place impersonation. Reading that, one would think that there is a problem with voter fraud in our state if her office is so intent on changing the voting law.
The Brennan Center of Justice does careful examination of any allegations of individual voter fraud. They have found it to be exceedingly rare. At voterfraudfacts.com, the New Mexico statistics for voter fraud in 2012 was one case of individual voter fraud, six cases of campaign official fraud and three cases of fraud by election officials. You can look at the statistics for all of the states and you find similar results. Individual voter fraud is exceedingly rare. When allegations are examined they most often turn out to be clerical errors, incomplete information or faulty assumptions.
So why should we add extra requirements for voting in New Mexico pursuing a virtually non-existent problem?
Voter ID laws create barriers to citizen participation in elections. Those laws will disenfranchise some of the population and make it difficult to impossible for them to participate in the election system. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 11 percent of U.S. citizens do not have a photo ID — not a passport, driver’s license or state-issued ID card. I think that voter ID laws stand a great chance of suppressing the vote and making it more difficult to vote. Officials should not be making laws that require citizens to jump through unnecessary hoops in order to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote. Voting is the cornerstone of democracy. It is the basic right upon which our civil liberties rest. The top priority of our political leaders and officials, be they Democrat, Republican or Independent is to work to protect and expand America’s freedom to vote through legislation and education. Leaders should fight any methods of statewide suppression and seek to increase access to registration and to the ballot box.
Three principles should guide officials in protecting the right to vote.
1. All Americans should be able to vote.
2. Voting should be free and easily accessible.
3. All votes should be counted fairly.
The issue in New Mexico that the Secretary of State’s office should be giving attention to is that approximately 50 percent of our electorate is not registered to vote.
The citizens would be better served with attention to that important issue rather than the politically motivated agenda of voter ID laws.