More Than 15,000 New Mexicans May Need to Register On Election Day, Vote A Provisional Ballot

By Catherine Flanagan November 4, 2014

Thousands of people who conducted business at a New Mexico motor vehicles office between January 1 to June 1, 2014 and answered “yes” to the question “would you like to register to vote,” were not offered voter registration services as required under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and the settlement agreement in the Valdez v. Duran case. Today, these would-be voters may have to vote by provisional ballot.

Project Vote and its partners, Demos and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, notified the state of the violations in May 16, 2014. In response to our communications, the state committed to undertake the following process at all polling places:

  • Provide a provisional ballot on Election Day to individuals who indicated that they wished to register to vote, but who did not complete a voter registration application while applying for a driver’s license or state identification card or completing a change-of-address form at a Motor Vehicles Division facility between January 1, 2014 and June 2, 2014.
  • Enter such voters into the voter file using the voter registration form on the provisional ballot envelope. These provisional voters’ ballots will be counted.

Project Vote and its partners wrote a letter to the state last week to confirm that the remedial measures are being implemented so that each eligible New Mexican who sought to register to vote at the MVD during January, 2014 to June, 2014, are able to cast a ballot that counts.

The MVD processes at issue involved implementation of a new state law authorizing online voter registration during certain MVD transactions. During the January-to-June period, customers who were assisted by an MVD clerk and answered “yes” to the question whether they wish to register to vote were either instructed to complete a voter registration application online on their own time or were sent to a machine to register to vote at MVD branches with kiosks. These processes violate Section 5 of the NVRA (the motor voter provisions) which require that voter registration applications or changes of voter registration address be effected simultaneously with applications for driver’s licenses, state IDs, renewals, and changes of address. Section 5 also prohibits states from require applicants to provide information duplicative of data they already provided in the motor vehicles forms.