Hamilton, beaten on issue for 4th time, will seek re-election
Republican state legislators today offered three bills to require photo identification to vote, and all of them went down to defeat.
A panel controlled by Democrats blocked the proposals one after another, saying they were elaborate and expensive solutions to a nonexistent problem.
All the bills were were stopped on a 3-2 party-line vote of the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee.
Republican Reps. Dianne Hamilton of Silver City, Cathrynn Brown of Carlsbad and James Smith of Sandia Park sponsored the unsuccessful bills.
Hamilton, 78, smiled after being defeated on a photo ID bill for the fourth time in four years. She said she would run for re-election this year in hopes of offering another photo ID bill in 2013.
“I do believe with all my heart there’s a great deal of voter fraud,” Hamilton said after the hearing. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t.”
But a committee member, Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, said such claims were easy to make but have never been supported with evidence.
“The bogeyman does not exist. Widespread voter fraud simply doesn’t exist,” said Maestas, D-Albuquerque.
About 90 people filled a hearing room for the debate, and most of them agreed with Maestas.
Katy Sheridan said a photo identification law would hurt people without many resources, such as herself.
“I use bicycle, bus and my own two feet to get around,” Sheridan said.
She went to vote in the Albuquerque municipal election last fall, not knowing that the city required photo identification to cast a ballot. Sheridan, a voter for 48 years, said the photo requirement stopped her from voting that day.
Bill Jordan, of New Mexico Voices for Children, said Republicans had not revealed the actual expense of implementing a photo identification system. He said educating the public, providing identification cards for people who lack them and training poll workers would cost at least $2 million a year.
The committee chairwoman, Democratic Rep. Gail Chasey of Albuquerque, said she was frustrated by the clamor in some circles for photo identification to vote.
Chasey said legislative committees had received anecdotal claims of voter fraud, so they set up public forums to collect the evidence. All the brash claims died when not a single person stepped forward with evidence, Chasey said.
Maestas said that, even if a politician wanted to risk a felony conviction by paying people to cast votes illegally, such an unwieldy system would easily be detected by election workers.
Daniel Ivey-Soto, spokesman for the organization representing New Mexico’s 33 county clerks, agreed.
Ivey-Soto helped Smith present his failed bill. Even so, Ivey-Soto said he concurred with Maestas that claims of runaway criminality in elections were false.
“I am comfortable in saying there is no systemic voter fraud in New Mexico,” he said.