Poll finds support for voter ID

By Steve Terrell: The New Mexican

While the Legislature routinely rejects Republican efforts to require New Mexico voters to show identification when casting ballots, a newly-released non-partisan poll indicates voters would approve the idea by a landslide.

The poll was conducted in November by Research & Polling Inc., an Albuquerque firm, as part of a study of electoral performance in New Mexico, led by University of New Mexico professor Lonna Atkeson.

Project partners listed include Secretary of State Mary Herrera and several county clerks around the state, including Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espinoza and Deputy County Clerk Denise Lamb.

“What’s significant is that this poll wasn’t done by a group of Republicans,” said Sen. Diana Duran, Tularosa.

Senate Republicans have introduced legislation in this session that would let New Mexico voters decide whether a government-issued photo identification card should be required in order to cast a vote.

Among the findings in the poll:

* Almost 70 percent of those surveyed said they “strongly agreed” that photo identification should be required of each voter at the polls to prevent voter fraud. Another 15 percent “somewhat agreed.”

* More than 43 percent said that in the past 10 years they had witnessed voter fraud.

* 50.2 percent say election fraud has changed the outcome of elections in which they have participated.

Atkeson said Thursday the high number of those who say they’ve witnessed voter fraud is troubling. She said the question might have been too vague.

An “Election Administration Memo” accompanying the poll results said, “We need to do a more in-depth study to understand what voters define as fraud and whether those stem from the larger electoral context or whether they observed inconsistencies in their own election experiences.”

According to the poll, nearly 68 percent believe that fraud is more likely in mail-in absentee ballots than in-person voting.

Opponents of voter ID – which include most Democrats in the Legislature – can take heart in one finding of the poll.

Almost 65 percent of those polled said New Mexico’s current Voter ID law is “just right,” while less than 29 percent said it is “not strict enough.” Before asking this question, the poll-takers read a statement saying, “New Mexico has a voter ID law that requires voters to identify themselves verbally by stating their name, address and birth year or to show a voter registration card or other identification card like a driver’s license or utility bill.”

According to the memo, “The data suggests that New Mexico’s voter identification laws are not followed correctly much of the time. … our observation efforts on Election Day showed little uniformity across and sometimes even within precincts. The current voter identification laws are not effectively administered.”

The results are split on who the poll participants believe commits the voter fraud. Of those polled, 18.6 percent said Republicans were guilty while 19.4 percent said Democrats. More than 44 percent said “both do it equally.”

According to the poll, there’s not much public support for a proposal to allow same-day voter registration. Nearly 50 percent “strongly disagree” with the idea while another 16.5 percent “somewhat disagree.” The House last month passed HB52, sponsored by Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, which would allow registration at the polls during early voting but not on Election Day itself.

Duran, who is sponsoring a voter-ID bill (Senate Bill 690), said she actually prefers the proposed constitutional amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 17, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales. “The best way to do it is allow the public to vote on it,” she said.

With just over two weeks left in the Legislature’s current session, neither measure has been scheduled for a committee hearing.

Besides Atkeson, other principal authors of the study include R. Michael Alverez, a political science professor at the California Institute of Technology, and Thad Hall, an assistant political science professor at the University of Utah. The study was paid for by the Pew Charitable Trust and The Jeht Foundation.

A total of 800 registered New Mexico voters were interviewed. The margin of error is 3.5 percent.

Contact Steve Terrell at 986-3037 or sterrell@sfnewmexican.com

Read his political blog at roundhouseroundup.com