ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Recent federal court decisions have stalled or killed voter identification laws in Texas, Wisconsin, North Carolina and North Dakota. But in the Secretary of State race in the nation’s most Hispanic state, voter ID remains a hot topic with the GOP nominee saying New Mexico needs a strict voter identification law to battle fraud.
Republican candidate Nora Espinoza told The Associated Press this week that none of the recent rulings had changed her mind about voter ID legislation. In fact, she questioned the decision overturning North Carolina’s law and suggested appellate judges overstepped their authority.
“The North Carolina decision is simply a matter of judges substituting themselves for the legislature and making stuff up so that they can prevent Voter ID,” Espinoza said. “The judges ignored all the evidence about improved turnout under Voter ID laws and the lack of any discrimination at all.”
But Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the Democratic candidate, said the rulings showed voter ID laws were simply efforts to deny people the right to vote. “I find it very concerning, even distressing, that a candidate would outright reject the decision of judges,” she said.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that North Carolina’s 2013 voter ID law was passed with “discriminatory intent” and blocked enforcement. The appellate court said the state’s Republican-led General Assembly made changes that targeted black voters more likely to support Democrats.
In addition, a federal judge on Monday blocked North Dakota’s voter identification law after a group of American Indians said it unfairly burdens them. The North Dakota lawsuit was filed in January by seven members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.
Earlier in July, another federal appellate court ruled that Texas’ 2011 voter ID law — the most restrictive in the country — was discriminatory and must be weakened before the November election. The Texas decision followed a federal court’s blocking Wisconsin’s voter ID law.
Around 30 states have some form of voter ID rules.
Espinoza and Toulouse Oliver are running to fill the remainder of a term vacated by former Secretary of State Dianna Duran, who resigned after pleading guilty last October to felony counts of embezzlement
Espinoza said she intends to advocate for a New Mexico voter ID law on the campaign trail. “New Mexicans see instances of vote fraud, stolen identity and stolen votes being reported every year,” Espinoza said. “This is not a partisan issue, as New Mexicans of all parties support Voter ID. So do I.”
Toulouse Oliver said any focus on voter ID takes the focus off improving accountability and campaign finance reforms. “I cannot support any bill that restricts the right to vote,” she said.
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