You can’t vote unless you register

Elections in New Mexico are not compromised by massive numbers of fraudulent votes, I am reasonably confident.

This issue arose last year in the debate over voter ID and the 2016 election. Fortunately, we did not have any major controversy over results in New Mexico. Still, it’s worth asking what the safeguards are.

The answer is pretty simple. You can’t vote unless you’re registered, and it’s hard to register unless you are are really you. New Mexico has a strict voter registration law, including procedures followed by state and local election officials to make sure only real, eligible people register.   When you go to vote, your ID has already been verified.

If you register in person at your county clerk’s office or a Motor Vehicles office, you are, to put it simply, present in the flesh where an official can see you.

If you register with a third-party agent, such as a voter registration volunteer, that agent must be registered with the county clerk and is subject to criminal penalties for any intentional fraud. The blank forms provided to the agent are numbered, must be signed by that agent and must be returned to the county clerk within 48 hours.

If you register online, you must supply your state issued ID or drivers license number with your registration.

If you register by mail, you can send the registration without a copy of an ID, but then your registration is flagged and you will have to present your ID the first time you vote.

To register, you have to provide your Social Security number and date of birth. Those data points will be cross checked with other records, at the county clerk’s office and the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office. If a discrepancy shows up, that will either invalidate the registration or lead to a phone call to you.

There is also a check for felons and one against a national database of people who died. The old joke I used to love to tell about the fellows in a cemetery copying names from the gravestones doesn’t work anymore.

New Mexico law requires previously unregistered voters to register 28 days before an election. So there is adequate time for all this checking. New Mexico does not have same-day registration, and I am not in favor of  it, unless we could be assured how registration would be verified.

There are reasons why an illegitimate registration might occur.

One is by accident. Jamie Diaz, election bureau chief in Bernalillo County, recalls when someone accidentally filled out the paperwork twice giving the identical information. No harm was intended, and the error was easily caught.

Another reason for illegitimate registration has been to prove for political reasons that it can be done. As I wrote last year, in 2012, New Mexico scored an embarrassing national headline when an Albuquerque man registered his dog and then announced to the media he had done it. Later it was revealed his wife was on the staff of Republican Heather Wilson, who was running for U.S. Senate. He was caught. The dog did not vote.

This is not completely infallible. I can think of a number of ways an individual or small group can slip through the cracks with fraudulent intentions.  But it’s hard to see how large numbers of people could get past all the safeguards undetected, both to register and to vote.

Our 21st century vulnerability is online. It is possible to imagine very sophisticated hackers sneaking into the state databases and fabricating phony registrations. We know exactly who wants to mess with our elections: the Russians.

That’s why we must insist that both parties in Congress keep the focus of their investigations on the genuine issue of protecting our elections.  We have to wonder why some members keep changing the subject.

Triple Spaced Again, © New Mexico News Services 2018


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