A recent letter to county clerks across New Mexico from Secretary of State Dianna Duran focused on cleaning up voter rolls.
"What this amounts to is we can't do a purge of the voter rolls until 2015, because the previous secretary of state did not meet the requirements for mailing out notices in 2007 and 2009, according to the Department of Justice," Lincoln County Clerk Rhonda Burrows said Thursday. "Once you mail out (notices of possible removal), you have to give voters two years for the opportunity to vote, to show they are still active on the rolls. The next official purge will occur in 2015."
Duran's letter states that in the opinion of the Attorney General and Duran, counties can convene their boards of registration and review the entire voter list. Based on that review, they may identify individuals who may warrant further research as to their status, Burrows explained.
"We may know some people are deceased, but the problem is confirming that officially." she said.
Additional research may prompt the initiation of the purge process for which other means of removal might be found, she said. "We could forward the names to the secretary of state and they can try to get the necessary documents to remove the names from agencies such as vital statistics," Burrows said. "They were just suggesting to us as people who have knowledge of our counties to provide a list for further research to determine if (individuals) might be removed by means provided in statutes."
State officials are working to clean up voter registration rolls by all means provided in state statutes, she said. "If we have an obituary or a death certificate, we can remove a name," she added.
In her letter, Duran wrote the clerks that she was not allowed to conduct a purge in 2011.
"The National Voter Registration Act provides that a state may not remove the name of a registrant from the official list of eligible voters in elections for federal office on the grounds that the voter has changed residence unless a voter confirms in writing that they changed their residence to a different jurisdiction or has failed to respond to a confirmation notice and has not voted or appeared to vote from the date of the notice through the date of the next two general elections for Federal office," Duran wrote.
Her office was advised by Department of Justice officials that the confirmation mailing sent by the Secretary of State's office in 2009 did not comply with the National Voters Registration Act and was considered invalid, because it was not forwardable and it notified the recipient that the form had to be returned no later than Jan. 15, 2010, more than three months prior to the date the NVRA specifies.
"The NVRA thus prohibits states from removing any voters from the voting rolls for reason of a change of address, who have not been sent the requisite confirmation notice or who have not confirmed such change in writing. Before any such voters are removed from the list of registered voters, they must be sent an NVRA-compliant confirmation notice and must not have voted or appeared to vote in the two general elections for federal office subsequent to the notice being sent out." Duran wrote.
"Based on New Mexico's failure to comply with the NVRA voter confirmation procedures in 2007 and 2009, it appears the state may not in 2011 or 2013 lawfully remove voters from its official list of eligible voters based solely on a suspected, but unconfirmed change of address. Section 8 of the NVRA continues to obligate the state to take reasonable steps as part of its general program of list maintenance to remove persons from the voter rolls who have become ineligible for other reasons, such as death, disqualifying felony conviction or mental incapacity, as provided for by state law. Nothing described herein precludes the State from continuing with such removals."
Senate Bill 403, effective July 2011, provides that no later than March 15 following a general election, a board of registration "shall" review the list of eligible voters and "shall" direct the county clerk to cancel the registration of any voters who has been sent a notice in conformance with the law, but who either failed to respond to the notice, or hasn't voted or who confirmed in writing a changed address outside the county. The statute requires and the Attorney General advised that the boards of registration meet to review the list of eligible voters, whether or not the secretary of state provides a purge list. That review is "an efficient practice and can prove beneficial to validating the voter rosters," Duran wrote.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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