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House panel shelves proposal to require voter ID

Sante Fe, New Mexico (AP) February 2011

A proposal to require voters to show identification at the polls in New Mexico was derailed as the measure ran into a wall of opposition from Democrats on a House committee.

The Voters and Elections Committee voted 7-6 along party lines to table the voter identification measure by Rep. Dianne Hamilton, a Silver City Republican. The vote will keep the measure bottled up in the committee, likely dooming it for the session.

Voter identification measures have failed repeatedly in the past in the Democratic-controlled Legislature. But Republicans picked up seats in the House in last year’s elections and narrowed the Democratic majority to 36-33 and one independent who had been a conservative Democrat until last month.

Hamilton and other Republicans said requiring voters to show photo identification will provide more integrity in state elections.

Opponents said an identification requirement would infringe on a person’s right to vote and could discourage voting by New Mexicans who don’t have a driver’s license or other government-issued photo identification card. Native Americans could have used a tribally issued document to meet the proposed identification requirement.

“I think we are disenfranchising those who are disabled or homebound,” said Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Espanola.

But Hamilton said her legislation required the state to issue free identification cards for the poor or those who are 75 or older.

Supporters said an identification requirement wasn’t burdensome.

“We have to show photo IDs even to go to a doctor now,” said Rep. William Rehm, R-Albuquerque. “I think everybody has some ID that fits this.”

The proposal would not have applied to those voting by mail-in absentee ballots, which accounted for 14 percent of the turnout in last year’s general election. Democrats on the committee said the legislation would establish an improper double standard for identification between those who vote at the polls and those who mail in absentee ballots.

Eight states require voters to show photo identification, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and 19 states accept non-photo identification to meet their voter identification requirements.




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