EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – New Mexico Democrats have introduced a bill to allow 16-year-olds to participate in local elections.
The New Mexico Voting Rights Act would also designate Election Day as a state holiday, send unrequested mail ballots to those on a permanent absentee voter list and automatically register eligible individuals to vote when completing transactions at the Motor Vehicle Department.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said the initiative is meant to significantly expand ballot access in her state even as other states implement restrictive and discriminatory electoral policies.
“Protecting voting rights is essential to upholding our democracy and ensuring New Mexicans’ voices are heard,” Lujan Grisham said. “It is more important than ever to safeguard access to the ballot box. While voting rights are under attack across the country, New Mexico is taking every action to protect and expand them.”
The 26th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to vote to citizens 18 years of age and older. However, several states allow 17-year-olds to participate in primary elections provided they will turn 18 before the general election, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And in 2020, the City of Oakland, California, held a public referendum to allow 16-year-olds to vote in school board directors elections. Voters approved the referendum.
Some New Mexico Republicans told Border Report that “it’s not a good idea to allow 16-year-olds to vote,” but GOP spokesman Mike Curtis was guarded.
“There’s too many moving parts to this bill. We’re not going to comment yet,” he said.
Secretary of State of New Mexico Maggie Toulouse Oliver said the permanent absentee ballot list would be voluntary. The measure known as Senate Bill 8 also would allow for nominating petition signatures to be submitted electronically and automatically restore voting rights for those convicted of a felony but who are no longer incarcerated.
“New Mexico has the opportunity to be the innovative leader that expands voter protections and ballot access,” said State Rep. Javier Martinez, a cosponsor of the legislation. “SB 8 will make sure the people of our state can freely and safely exercise their constitutional right to vote and we can protect our core democratic values.”
New Mexico already enacted same-day voter registration and expanded automatic voter registration in 2020.