WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, July 22, a federal judge issued an order that allows a conservative group, Voter Reference Foundation, to publish voters’ information — including their names, addresses and information about the elections in which they participated — on a public database. Back in March, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D) referred the organization to the New Mexico attorney general for possible prosecution for violating New Mexico statutes that govern how voter data can be used. In response, the conservative group and a New Mexico resident who supports the group’s work filed a lawsuit challenging New Mexico’s ability to criminally prosecute the group for allegedly violating the New Mexico statutes protecting voter data. The plaintiffs allege that the possible criminal prosecution infringes upon their right to free speech in violation of the First and 14th Amendments and that New Mexico’s allegedly vague and arbitrary restrictions surrounding voter data violate the First and Fifth Amendments. In its order on Friday, a federal judge ruled that the group may post voter data online, noting that the court disagrees with the secretary of state’s interpretation of New Mexico’s election code.
According to the Associated Press, this lawsuit comes as part of a “conservative-backed initiative to publish voter registration records across the country online.” Toulouse Oliver’s spokesperson addressed the secretary of state’s concerns with public voter information: “The fear now is that voters will be less likely to participate in our elections because their voting information — name, residential address, party affiliation, voting history, and year of birth — will be made easily available online for anyone to obtain and potentially manipulate.” New Mexico has already been the subject of a door-to-door canvas — a tactic that has been under scrutiny for intimidating voters — by people associated with the “New Mexico Audit Force,” a group supported by Republicans who wanted to audit the results of the 2020 election. This decision does not apply to victims of domestic violence or stalking who are in New Mexico’s Safe at Home Program.