Why NM Legislators Should Vote for HB 57
Summary: This bill would eliminate the disqualification from voting in NM for persons convicted of a felony. Original bill language restored felons’ right to vote, including while incarcerated. An amendment is expected to be introduced in the 3/4/19 House Judiciary Committee hearing in which voting rights would be restored upon release from incarceration.
History: New Mexico repealed lifetime felony disenfranchisement in 2001. Changes in 2005 codified data sharing procedures and provided for a certificate to restore voting rights for felons after completion of all terms of probation.
Why This Bill Is Good for NM
- Over 6.1 million Americans are currently prohibited from voting due to felony convictions, up from 1.1 million in 1976. In 2016 in New Mexico, over 24,000 people were disenfranchised due to a felony conviction, not including those who completed their sentences and were eligible to re-register, but were not aware they could or feared being charged with voting illegally.
- Felony disenfranchisement policies have a disproportionate impact on communities of color.
- Since 1997, 23 states have passed legislation reducing felon voting restrictions. Maine and Vermont allow people convicted of felonies to vote, even while imprisoned.
- Restoring the vote to persons leaving prison could aid their transition back into community life. The loss of voting rights compounds the isolation of formerly incarcerated individuals from their communities, and civic participation has been linked with lower recidivism rates. In one study, among individuals who had been arrested previously, 27 percent of non-voters were rearrested, compared with 12 percent of voters. This legislation could ultimately help reduce the state’s prison population and probation/parole caseloads.
- Almost half of European countries allow incarcerated individuals to vote, facilitating voting within the prison or by absentee ballot. In Canada, Israel, and South Africa, constitutional courts have ruled that any conviction-based restriction of voting rights is unconstitutional.
- This measure would simplify procedures for same-day and early-voting registration by removing the requirement to confirm that a person seeking to register is not a felon still on parole or probation.
- Common Cause
- American Civil Liberties Union
- Daily Kos
- Democracy Initiative
- Center for Popular Democracy
- Color of Change
- Fair Elections Center
- Franciscan Action Network
- Greenpeace USA
- Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
- Let America Vote
- NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
- National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund
- People for the American Way
- Prison Policy Initiative
- The Sentencing Project
- Transformative Justice Coalition
- Voter Rights Action