WASHINGTON, D.C. — The New Mexico Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that would ban guns near polling places and drop boxes.
The Democratic-controlled Senate approved the bill in a 26 to 16 vote, with only one Democrat joining every Republican in opposition. The bill would ban the possession of a firearm within 100 feet of a polling place and 50 feet of a drop box. “Given where we are as a country with elections, having guns (kept) out of polling places in my opinion — and I respect that there’s a difference of opinion on this — but I think it makes a lot of sense,” said Sen. Peter Wirth (D), the state Senate majority leader and a cosponsor of the bill, according to the Associated Press.
It’s not the first time the New Mexico Senate tried to ban guns near polling places. The Senate passed a similar bill in last year’s legislative session but did not make it to a vote in the House chamber. The new version of the bill differs in that it would add language clarifying that people are allowed to leave their guns in their vehicle while they vote, and that people are allowed to carry firearms near voting places if they’re “conducting lawful, non-election-related business.”
In the aftermath of the 2020 election, which saw a sharp rise in threats of violence at polling places and voter drop boxes, a number of states took measures to reduce the threat of violence while voting. In Arizona, for example, vigilantes — some armed — staked out drop boxes in the 2022 midterm election, following and intimidating voters as they dropped their ballots off at drop boxes for early voting. The League of Women Voters sued Melody Jennings, the leader of the group that spearheaded drop box monitoring throughout the state. The lawsuit was settled, with Jennings agreeing to stop monitoring drop boxes and put out a statement condemning voter intimidation.
Eleven states and Washington, D.C. have laws that ban guns near voting sites. A recent report investigating the impact of guns on voting from the nonprofit legal think tank, the Brennan Center For Justice, concluded that the recent rise in political violence, along with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent expansion of Second Amendment rights “create a growing risk of gun violence in our elections.”
The New Mexico bill now heads to the House of Representatives, where it needs to go through a committee vote and full House vote. New Mexico’s Democratic governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has already voiced support for the bill.