The chairman of the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee pulled a surprise move this morning, quickly recalling and then passing a strict mandatory photo voter ID bill that was not on the agenda. He did it while several Democratic opponents were out of the room dealing with other bills, which left Republicans with the ability to pass the bill without forceful opposition.
Last month, the HGEIAC Committee had previously tabled (killed) House Bill 340, sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R-Otero), in favor of a compromise bill Chairman Jim Smith co-sponsored with Democratic Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto and supported by the state’s county clerks.
One bill advances, another tabled in voter ID discussion | NM Political Report | Feb. 21, 2015
The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee voted to pass one bill related to voter ID, while the more strict version was tabled. However, lawmakers on the panel hinted that portions of the stricter bill will appear in the next version of the legislation that passed.
The committee saw two different bills related to voter ID on Saturday in a lengthy hearing.
The first—called a compromise bill by sponsors Rep. James Smith, R-Sandia Park, and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque—passed on a party-line 6-5 vote with Republicans in favor.
The other, a more strict voter ID bill [HB340]—was sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad—was tabled on an 8-3 vote, with three Republicans voting against it…
Rep. Smith was one of the three Republicans mentioned above who voted to table Rep. Brown’s more restrictive mandatory photo voter ID bill. Secretary of State Dianna Duran expressed her displeasure at that move at the time, saying she preferred the stricter version in the tabled bill.
- You can watch Rep. Smith vote to kill Rep. Brown’s HB340 HERE, his vote comes at 06:24:50
Over the weekend, apparently, things changed.
In an apparent capitulation to pressure from Secretary Duran’s office, Chairman Jim Smith (R-Sandia Park), normally a champion of transparency and good government, called the bill up from the table this morning and passed it quickly after several Democratic representatives were out of the room managing other bills.
Chairman Smith is considered a moderate Republican who champions many good government causes. He previously sponsored HB72 (2013) to ensure that the public receives 72-hours notice of any public meeting agenda. This year Rep. Smith is sponsoring HB 378 to provide public comment in public meetings along with co-sponsoring SB278 which would provide for more transparency in campaign finance disclosures.
Here’s what Chairman Smith said about open and transparent government when he accepted Common Cause’s “Best in Government Award” in 2013 (emphasis added):
“Transparency in government is an issue that is important to all New Mexicans, and I am proud to receive this award from CCNM for my part in making New Mexico more open and accessible for our citizens. CCNM has been a great partner along the way, and I am thankful for their support as we pass legislation that makes all government in New Mexico more accountable to the public. Together we are making great strides towards transparency, but our work isn’t complete. We will continue listening to our citizens to ensure they have confidence in their government, and that the confidence is well-deserved.”
Today’s movida to force through an extreme mandatory photo voter ID bill without giving the public notice or chance to comment was nothing short of sneaky. It flies in the face of every transparency and good government agenda Smith has championed.
Republicans supporting Brown’s strict mandatory photo voter ID bill were quick to acknowledge that they wanted to making voting harder:
“I think if it’s a little bit harder, then their vote would mean more,” Rep. Dianne Hamilton, R-Silver City, said.
House Bill 340, as passed without public notice, enacts a government mandate that every voter present a photo identification issued by the government before voting. Among concerns noted during the first public debate are that poll workers could subjectively deny voters access if they thought the picture did not perfectly match the voter who may have aged, and concerns that some Native American voters do not have access to tribal identification cards.
The other bill, a compromise bill Smith himself helped write, beefed up New Mexico’s current verbal address verification process and provided options for voters to verify their voting address with a variety of documents available to almost all voters.
Here’s what Smith said back in December about his reasons for supporting his compromise bill, HB61, over Rep. Brown’s HB340:
Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto said the bill guards against disenfranchising voters and addresses problems with mail-in ballots… HB 61 would allow expired driver’s licenses to be used for voter identification. Also the address on a driver’s license would not have to match that on the voter’s certificate of registration. “I know people move around all the time and don’t change the address on their driver’s licenses even though they’re supposed to,” Smith said.
Alex Curtas, ProgressNow NM’s Communications Director and point person for voting rights issues, had this to say about Rep. Smith’s movida:
“Rep. Smith has been a dynamic advocate for open government for many years. He showed a true bi-partisan spirit in his willingness to craft a mandatory photo voter ID bill with Sen. Ivey-Soto this year that tries its best to limit the inevitable voting barriers such laws create. However, any goodwill Rep. Smith created with such a compromise has now been dashed. Even though Rep. Smith voted against Rep. Brown’s restrictive bill a few weeks ago, his devious move today to surrender to Secretary Duran’s pressure and quickly pass it while Democratic committee members were absent is a shameful affront to the committee process (and to his previous actions). Rep. Smith should apologize to the public for excluding them from the democratic process and explain to us why he flip-flopped his own vote. Further, he should explain to his Democratic colleagues why he chose to exclude them from this important voting rights debate.”