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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Same-day registration would prevent future mishaps at polls

Editor,

I was disappointed to hear recently that UNM students who had filled out voter registration forms with the UNM arm of NM Public Interest Research Group (NMPIRG) were unable to vote in the Nov. 2 General Election. NMPIRG is a valuable, nonpartisan organization that works diligently to register students to vote, provides students with information about voting and urges them to go to the polls.

NMPIRG contacted me a few days before the election when they became aware that voters they had registered had not received their voter information cards in the mail. As the story in Friday’s Daily Lobo indicated, apparently at least two of those students also were not found on the voter registration rolls when they attempted to vote. This is a truly unfortunate situation for all involved. However, at a bare minimum, these students should have been offered the opportunity to vote provisionally. That is a right guaranteed by federal law.

Based on what they told me, NMPIRG acted in good faith in their efforts to act as what the state calls “third-party voter registration agents.” They contacted my office in order to ensure the last-minute forms they had collected would be processed in time. While NMPIRG acted within the letter of the law that requires them to submit forms within 48 hours of when they have been filled out, unfortunately they missed the other crucial deadline for the forms to have been processed in time for the Nov. 2 election.

The students of UNM should know that both my office and NMPIRG are 100 percent interested in encouraging and assisting students in registering and voting in Bernalillo County. I have personally demonstrated a commitment to making it as easy and accessible as possible for UNM students to vote — I have implemented the first-ever early voting location at UNM for the last two election cycles and it has been wildly popular.

Additionally, I have lobbied extensively for same-day registration (SDR). If implemented in New Mexico, SDR, as it has been proposed and supported by me and the New Mexico County Clerks’ Affiliate, would allow voters to register and vote at the same time during the early voting period. If SDR had been in place in 2010, these students would not have encountered the problems they had with voting.

I will continue to work with NMPIRG and other student organizations to provide opportunities for easy and hassle-free voting at UNM and across the county, as I am committed to ensuring all eligible citizens are able to cast their ballot.

Maggie Toulouse Oliver
Bernalillo County Clerk