A New Day for Democracy: Automatic Rights Restoration Wins in New Mexico!
Days before President Biden’s proclamation of April as Second Chances Month, New Mexico advocates and coalitions were already celebrating a statewide victory of their own — the passing of a voting rights omnibus bill including automatic rights restoration for returning citizens. In New Mexico, where voter registration numbers are among the lowest in the country, back-end automatic voter registration is a powerful step toward ensuring everyone’s voices are heard. With a Democratic supermajority in the state, the opportunity for grassroots groups to mobilize their bases and protect democracy is here and now.
Since 2009, MVP partner, Organizers in the Land of Enchantment (OLÉ) have used issue-based campaigns and electoral engagement to ensure that working families help shape New Mexico’s future. They have played a critical role in protecting democracy, having worked tirelessly over multiple sessions to get rights restoration passed. In a time when some want to make voting harder by creating barriers for millions, improving our voter registration system is a necessary part of the long-term organizing game.
Until now, returning citizens in New Mexico were only legally eligible to register to vote after completion of parole or probation and payment of all fines and fees. Some county clerks refused to register those who completed these requirements, even with the correct paperwork proving their eligibility. If we are serious about protecting our democracy, we need to improve our voter registration system to be more accurate, secure, and accessible to everyone. Automatic rights restoration upon release from prison is one major step states are taking to do just that. “This isn’t merely a political issue. It’s a matter of public safety, racial justice, and evidence-based policy” said OLÉ organizer and returning citizen Justin Allen for Newsweek.
New Mexico may be a small state, but this victory has far-reaching implications for the rest of the country. It is a reminder of what sustained investment in grassroots organizing can do as we continue a fight that is far from over. There is still work to be done. Donate to help MVP and our partners win major policy changes on every issue and level of government for a democracy and country that works for all of us.