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Obstacles on the way to the polls

There are many reasons not to vote, from being under 18 to being convicted of a felony.

According to a study done by the Sentencing Project in 2016, 6.1 million people in the U.S. are unable to vote because of a felony conviction, meaning that, nationally, around 2.5 percent of the population is ineligible to vote for this reason. In some states that average is closer to 7 percent.

According to, a little under 2 percent of New Mexico’s population who would otherwise be able to vote are ineligible because of felony convictions, lower than the national percentage.

Only two states, Maine and Vermont, allow people in prison to vote.

However, unlike 12 other states, New Mexico does restore voting rights to people who have been convicted of a felony after they have completed their prison sentence, and are no longer on parole or probation.

Citizenship status prevents people from voting as well. The process to become a U.S. citizen takes at least six months, and applying alone for naturalization costs $689. Just last February the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy revealed that undocumented immigrants pay $11.64 billion in taxes, despite their inability to participate in U.S. elections.

Voter registration deadlines can also prevent people from voting; New Mexico’s deadline was October 11th.

That’s what is preventing UNM student Jacob Zentz, a senior business administration major, from voting this election.

“I didn’t register in time and I kind of wish that I did, but it’s too late now to do anything about it,” he said. “I just didn’t think about it. It was something that was in the background. It wasn’t that important until when you actually wanted to do it.”

However, not every state has registration deadlines. There are 13 states that allow same day voter registration. Additionally, acquiring an absentee ballot in New Mexico is relatively easy; no excuse is required for requesting one,and an application can be submitted until the Friday before Election Day.

Senior liberal arts major Amy Padilla, who is currently registered in Virginia, found voting by absentee ballot simple and easy.

“I did it all online,” she said.I requested the ballot online and had it sent to my home and then sent it in.”

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But mix ups can occur. Matilde VanFleet said that after an absentee ballot mix-up, she hasn’t had the time to vote.

“I took today off after two 50-60 hour days in a row, so I hopefully have enough time to vote. Even then I have so many chores and other things in my personal life to take care of that I don't know if I'll make it over there,” she said. “And I have to work (Tuesday) so I don't think I'll be able to vote. Plus they sent my early voting ballot to the wrong address, so the process is going to take twice as long when I go into whatever my district post is to prove that I didn't already fill out my mail in ballot.”

Voters must also be at least 18 years of age. UNM student Devin Warner said he thinks that’s a reasonable restriction.

“I think it’s pretty accurate. You’re old enough to make a decent decision,” he said.

The SUB polling location made early voting easy for some UNM students, includingTeah Amirkabirian, a freshman studying pre-biology.

“It’s nice that it’s on campus,” she said. “It makes it easy for people who live here. They don’t have to leave.”

Poll worker Vicki said she thinks accessibility to voting in New Mexico has improved.

“I’ve had comments from people from California and Ohio saying how much better our system is right now and I know that what we’re trying to do is improve New Mexico’s image for some of the things that we’ve garnered,” she said. “Across the nation sometimes New Mexico is in the bottom in a lot of things, but I think in this election we’re trying to really improve from that angle.”

UNM student Kim Claassen said she is not sure if she will vote, despite having access to it.

“I know where to go to vote,” she said, “it’s just getting there and actually voting.”

Cathy Cook is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @Cathy_Daily. 

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