By: Julia Deng
HOBBS - Community members and local representatives of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People gathered Monday evening at Booker T. Washington Elementary School to discuss the possible effects of a voter identification proposal on voting rights.
The proposal, set to be decided by a special election on December, would require all voters to present valid photo identification at municipal elections.
"It's an effort, in my opinion, to suppress people coming to the polls," said B.J. Choice, Sr., a member of the Hobbs branch of the NAACP.
He compared the proposed charter amendment to Jim Crow laws of the late 19th century, used to restrict voting rights in the South.
"[This is like] the poll tax and the literacy test that minorities and poor whites had to go through. The effect is the same."
According to Choice, certain groups - including African Americans, Latinos and the elderly - have more difficulty obtaining photo IDs, such as driver licenses.
All registered voters residing within the city limits of Hobbs are eligible to vote in the special election on December 9.
If the proposal passes, it would only affect municipal elections.
"This would not change voting requirements for the general election, the primary election [or] the school election," said Jan Fletcher, the Hobbs City Clerk.
The initiative was proposed by the New Mexico Citizens Coalition as part of a larger effort to establish voter photo ID requirements throughout the state.
According to Bob Wright, a spokesman for the Coalition, the purpose of these requirements is to prevent voter fraud.
"Without these [measures], anybody can say they're anybody and vote in their name," said Wright.
"We've just recently had a case in Rio Rancho where a gentleman went to vote and found out somebody had already voted for him."
City Clerk Jan Fletcher explained Hobbs voters need only state their name and address, verbally, in order to vote.
She said this "has not resulted in any reported cases of voter fraud in Hobbs."
Still, the Citizens Coalition said they aim to take "preventative measures."
"Voter fraud is not a matter of [being] Republican or Democratic, or black or white," said Wright.
"The elections belong to everybody. If it's an insecure election, it is insecure for anyone. [Secure voting] is the very bedrock foundation of the republic we live in."
Another meeting, organized by those in favor of requiring voter photo identification, is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The Patriots of Lea County will host the event in Room 204 of Heidel Hall at New Mexico Junior College.