SANTA FE — Two New Mexico legislators are dropping their attempts to require photo identification or a Social Security number to vote.
Republican Reps. Dianne Hamilton and Cathrynn Brown said it would be futile to introduce any voter identification bills because Democrats have strengthened their hold on the state House of Representatives.
“We don’t have the votes to pass anything,” said Brown, a second-term lawmaker from Carlsbad.
She introduced bills in each of the last two years that would have required government-issued photo identification to vote. Both failed.
Hamilton, of Silver City, sponsored voter identification bills for four consecutive years, only to see each one killed by Democrats.
Last year Democrats controlled the House 36-33-1. Now, after the fall election, their advantage has increased to 38-32 — too large a difference to bother with another bill this year, Hamilton said.
“It’s never passed before. It wouldn’t pass this time,” she said in an interview.
Perhaps no issue is more partisan in New Mexico than this one.
Republicans lined up behind the Brown and Hamilton bills, saying photo ID is necessary to cash a check so it should be required to make sure elections are honest.
In turn, Democrats closed ranks to block the bills. They said identification requirements would rob otherwise qualified electors of their right to vote.
The late House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, once told Hamilton that New Mexico has communities without running water or electricity, much less a convenient way to obtain a government-issued photo identification card that would be needed to vote.
Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, who this month likely will succeed Lujan as speaker of the House, also opposes identification requirements to vote. He has said the Republican-backed bills could stop older people and low-income people from casting ballots.
Another criticism of the Republican proposals was that many of them focused on voters who went to the polls in person rather than those who submitted ballots by mail.
Hamilton last year softened her call for photo identification. She proposed that voters instead could supply the last four digits of their Social Security number. That measure also failed.
Though Brown will not introduce a voter ID bill this year, she said she would seek a memorial or resolution asking for a study that would pinpoint any weaknesses in New Mexico’s election security.
Milan Simonich, Santa Fe bureau chief of Texas-New Mexico Newspapers, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-820-6898. His blog is at nmcapitolreport.com