5 July 2012
by Alex Curtas
Secretary Duran, Do You Want People To Vote Or Not?
Secretary of State and Doña Ana County Clerk Raise Illegitimate Concerns About Legitimate Voter Registration Drive
ALBUQUERQUE – A non-profit voter registration group drew the ire of the Secretary of State and the Doña Ana County Clerk earlier this week for…wait for it…trying to get more New Mexicans registered to vote.
The Voter Participation Center (VPC) mails the official, federal National Voter Registration Application from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to unregistered voters in New Mexico with the goal of increasing democratic participation. The forms are to be filled out by citizens who want to vote (and are eligible to do so) and sent back not the VPC but directly to state or local elections officials. Basically, the VPC is mailing out registration cards and leaving the rest up to the voter. That’s it.
However, instead of welcoming the efforts of the VPC to assist with New Mexico’s registered voter crisis — in 2010, there were 1,362,000 citizens in New Mexico eligible to register; of those citizens, only 746,000 are registered to vote — both Secretary of State Dianna Duran and Doña Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins questioned the legitimacy of the registration drive by citing concerns about protections that are already in place and which are the responsibility of election officials, not the VPC, to enforce.
According the Las Cruces Sun-News:
County officials highlighted concerns from New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who in a June 26 letter indicated the Voter Participation Center’s letters are being sent to “already-registered voters, non-citizens and minors who are ineligible to vote.”
It is the responsibility of the Secretary of State and county election officials to ensure that only people who are actually eligible to vote are registered to do so, not the VPC.
If the VPC sends a registration form to an ineligible voter by accident, that person might fill out the form and return it to election officials but that person will not be allowed to register because…they are not allowed to register. This is no different than a worker at a registration drive approaching a passer-by, asking them to register, and then learning that that person is not eligible to register. It is not an intentional deception that will corrupt the integrity of the voter file, it is a mistake for which there are mechanisms in place to remedy – namely, election officials must review the registration card and determine whether or not that person is actually eligible to vote.
The Sun-News article continues with this distressing quote from County Clerk Lynn Ellins:
Doña Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellis [sic] issued a statement, warning the public “against responding to mailers of any kind if the Voter Participation Center is the sender.”
Such statements by election officials do more to discourage voter participation than anything the VPC is doing. We have a voter registration crisis on our hands in New Mexico and we need to do whatever we can to make sure that all those who can vote are able to do so.
Suppressing voter participation by attempting to tarnish the name of a nonprofit group who’s only goal is to register more people to vote is an affront to the democratic process and Ms. Duran and Mr. Ellins should cease their unhelpful rhetoric if they actually want increased voter participation in New Mexico.