I’m no stranger to the Roundhouse. For many years I’ve made the trip — sometimes through rain and snow, from my home in Corrales to Santa Fe. I’ve seen the building and the people in it change. Today’s Roundhouse looks a lot more like New Mexico than it did the first time I visited.
Today, women not only make up almost half the House, they also drive much of the agenda. They help each other, often without regard to the D or R next to their names. The House now also counts among its members more people of color than ever before and its first Muslim member.
This session is truly different from the past. Our new governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, has entered office with perhaps the greatest mandate of any new governor in our state’s history. She and the new, stronger Democratic majorities in the Roundhouse have taken notice and haven’t wasted a second in playing catch-up after eight years of neglect.
We still have work to do. Our state’s voters are still whiter, older and wealthier than New Mexicans as a whole. Can we sit in the Capitol and say we represent all New Mexicans when so few of our younger or most vulnerable neighbors make it to the polls?
Our legislators in the Roundhouse have taken notice and have taken two vital steps toward making our democracy truly representative. This session, both the House and Senate have passed Senate Bill 672, which would codify automatic voter registration at a number of state government offices and allow voter registration until and on Election Day.
Same-day registration makes it easier to register and participate for someone who learns about the candidates and the contest less than 28 days before the election. It has a strong track record in 17 states and the District of Columbia.
Some suggest that limitations in rural broadband would make same-day registration impossible in rural areas of the state. I admit New Mexico has ground to make up with rural broadband (something Lujan Grisham has promised we will do), but if our neighbors in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Utah can make it work, so can we.
Our secretary of state, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, already has begun to make voting easier, fairer and more secure. She has fought to modernize our election system and keep politicians accountable through improved campaign finance disclosures. During the House session Tuesday, Toulouse Oliver served as an unimpeachable expert witness, walking the representatives through the intricacies of the registration process. She may be the most prepared public election official in the country, and she’s clearly ready to work with all 33 counties to implement this change.
Thanks to the vision of our governor and leaders in the Roundhouse, a voting public more diverse in age, race and income will chose the next generation of our leaders. That’s good news for democracy and all New Mexicans.
Marg Elliston is chairwoman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico. She lives in Corrales.