Election reform is essential for future of democracy

April 20, 2019:

The League of Women Voters of New Mexico thanks Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., for introducing the For the People Act in the U.S. Senate. The bill, started in the House, addresses voter access, election integrity and security, political spending and ethics. We are now asking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to permit the bill to move forward with a hearing. The bill already passed the House of Representatives.

Several components of the bill have been addressed by the New Mexico state government. We have recountable paper ballots and early voting as well as restrictions on removing names from the voter rolls. We will soon have automatic voter registration through the Motor Vehicle Division and other state agencies. We now have registration during early voting, and in 2021 will also have Election Day voter registration.

The For the People Act would extend the same opportunities to citizens in all states. The bill creates a national strategy to protect our democratic institutions. It would restore the key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, increase oversight of election vendors and enhance federal support for state voting system security upgrades, including paper ballot voting systems.

There are also provisions in the bill that would improve democracy in New Mexico. It would establish an alternative campaign funding system for certain federal offices and enact a requirement for every state to create an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission.

The bill would restructure the Federal Election Commission to have five commissioners to break gridlock and make permanent its civil penalty authority.

The For the People Act addresses campaign spending: expanding the ban on foreign nationals contributing to or spending on elections; expanding disclosure rules pertaining to organizations spending money on elections, campaign advertisements and online platforms; and strengthening disclaimer requirements for political advertising.

The legislation proposes clear ethics rules reforms for the president, vice-president, federal officers and employees as well as members of Congress.

The League of Women Voters has long advocated for more disclosure of campaign funding in New Mexico as well as certain limits. This bill would enact these provisions at the federal level.

We also have been strong advocates for redistricting reform in New Mexico. While we believe an independent commission is the best approach, in the 2019 legislative session we proposed a compromise between the current method and an independent commission. Action at the federal level would remove the pressure of this decision from state lawmakers. Allowing legislators to draw their own districts creates the appearance, if not the reality, of allowing legislators to choose their voters rather than allowing the voters to choose their representatives.

The league believes the American people need a democracy that works for them, not for special and entrenched interests.

Judith Williams is president of the League of Women Voters of New Mexico.