FOR IMMIDIATE RELEASE October 24, 2008
CONTACT: Whitney Potter, Communications Director (505) 266-5915 ext. 1003;email@example.com or James Flores, Spokesperson for Secretary of State Mary Herrera (505) 476-0352; firstname.lastname@example.org
The New Mexico Women’s Justice Project, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, and Secretary of State Mary Herrera announced an agreement to ensure convicted felons who have completed all probation or parole are able to vote in the upcoming election.
Under a 2001 state law, individuals who have completed their sentence are to be reinstated into the voter rolls by the State. This year, the State had a backlog of reinstatements for individuals whose voter rights had been restored. To remedy the problem of the backlog and make sure that people formerly convicted are given every opportunity to vote, the civil rights groups and Secretary Herrera agreed that the Secretary of State will:
- Issue a directive permitting anyone to vote on a provisional ballot who states that they should be permitted to vote because they completed the terms of their sentence under N.M. Stat. Ann. § 31-13-1 (2008), but who appears as an ineligible voter because of a felony conviction on the rolls.
- Waive any time constraints for qualifying the provisional ballot of these individuals, until such times as the Secretary of State can review them and cross-reference them with the information from the New Mexico Department of Corrections, New Mexico Administration of Courts, and the Federal Department of Corrections.
- Direct all County Clerks to issue a letter to anyone who has received a letter of rejection, clarifying that the individual may be permitted to vote on a provisional ballot.
- Enter all data of information for all persons with a prior felony conviction, now eligible to vote, into the computer system prior to this year’s election.
- Provide record of information of all individuals who have been sent a rejection letter or who have not been able to vote based upon a prior felony conviction.
Christina Vigil, Executive Director of the New Mexico Women’s Justice Project, said, “We were very concerned about the disenfranchisement of individuals with felony convictions who completed their sentence and were eligible to vote. We are relieved that the Secretary of State’s Office has agreed to solutions, which ensure that individuals with past felony convictions will now be allowed to exercise their fundamental right to vote on Election Day and participate in the political process.”
“This is an important accomplishment that clears the way for thousands of restored voters to participate in one of the most momentous elections in recent history,” said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. “We are thrilled that the Secretary of State’s Office shares our commitment to voters’ rights and is willing to implement these critical changes, even so close to the time of the election.”
The New Mexico Women’s Justice Project, Inc. (NMWJP), located in Albuquerque, is a non-profit organization that seeks to eliminate a broad range of systemic barriers to social, economic and political justice faced by women, girls and their families in NM. The NMWJP focuses on women and girls whose lives are affected by the criminal justice, delinquency and child welfare systems. The Project is dedicated to improving the lives of women and children who have been affected by poverty, addiction, mental illness, and the trauma of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse by providing research, policy development, education, and direct action for change that enhances lives while maintaining families and protecting our communities.
The mission of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico is to maintain and advance the cause of civil liberties within the state of New Mexico, with particular emphasis on the freedom of religion, speech, press, association, and assemblage, and the right to vote, due process of law and equal protection of law, and to take any legitimate action in the furtherance and defense of such purposes. These objectives shall be sought wholly without political partisanship.