Feb 8 / Erin Ferns Lee

Bill Alert: N.M. and Montana Propose Bills to Impede Voter Registration Efforts

Lawmakers in New Mexico and Montana introduced bills this week to impose further restrictions on community voter registration drives.

New Mexico’s HB 444 would amend the state’s already bureaucratic voter registration rules to additionally require organizations that help people register to vote to employ only New Mexico citizens who are over 18, who must also undergo a state-run training before conducting the registration drive. The bill would also impose restrictive compensation rules that prohibit the firing of employees based on their performance in collecting applications. Violations of these provisions are criminal penalties under the bill.

In fact, some of the proposed changes to New Mexico law under HB 444 are nearly identical to provisions that were held to be likely unconstitutional in violation of the First Amendment in Texas. Texas’ appeal of this ruling is currently pending.

Montana’s “Third-Party Vote Registration Integrity Act” (HB 410) would impose a three-day turnaround period to return completed voter registration forms, among several other provisions. A federal court in Florida held a similar 48-hour turnaround for voter registration organizations was probably unconstitutional and  “plainly” in violation of the National Voter Registration Act.

HB 410’s bill sponsor, Rep. Ted Washburn, is also responsible for another bill that would restrict access to voter registration: HB 30 proposes to revoke Montana’s same-day registration policy that reportedly has helped more than 28,000 people register to vote since 2005.

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