Teresa Leger Fernandez:
So today, yeah, HR1. And what was so neat about that is there was this neat moment where, and they said, I guess that this isn’t common, but you know, it was just what you do when you’ve been working on these issues, right? Is we looked at HR 1, which is they call it the, for the people act, I call it the, protect, our democracy and protect our elections. And we read it, I read it on the plane because they were going to be, re-introducing it. I asked him, I said, well, it’s the 117th Congress, are we going to make changes and are freshmen, incoming people, going to be able to have input. They said, yeah, here’s the bill. And it was great because I read it on the plane and, you know, I listed about seven or eight things.
And at the time the only person I had on staff was my chief of staff. And he like reached out to them and they said, well, you know, this and that on some of them, but there were three major pieces that they said, yeah, we’ll consider that. You know, I called up the sponsors, you know, the people really working on the braille and they were receptive. And, you know, from a few conversations, from reading of the bill, and then from a lot of work that my staff did that I never got to see, right, but we got these three, I think really important pieces into the legislation. And this is the hallmark piece of legislation. It’s HR1 cause it’s the first bill, the Democrats are saying, this is our priority to get this passed. And things that come out of New Mexico’s experience, a bill is marvelous on so many levels, but there was these little improvements that we were able to make based on New Mexico experience.
And that was so neat when I was like, did we get it in? Do we get it in? And then my legislative director sent me an email saying yes, and each of the three pieces, to read it was, it was pretty neat. It was like, wow, it works right. You come to Congress and you make a suggestion and you know, you bring experience and you talk to, you know, the key people and then you have all these amazing staff people work with each other, and there it is. And if we win in Georgia tonight, it could become law. If we don’t, we’ll reintroduce it again two years from now. I mean, it’s one of those things we don’t give up on. So that was pretty neat. And the three pieces are really neat because one piece I loved the way it came out, you know, we’ve seen all those people who wait 10 hours in line to vote.
Nobody should have to wait 10 hours in line to vote, especially not when in their same city somebody is waiting 20 minutes. Right? So the neat thing about that one is in New Mexico, they were not—we experienced something like that, where they were not putting early voting sites in rural native American areas, which I saw would be a violation of the voting rights act. So I went to speaker Ben Lujan at the time. And you know, by then I had already won a couple of voting rights act cases and I said, “speaker, this is a violation of voting rights act.” And you know, I’d written it [?] be sued, but we’re not, that’s how we do it in New Mexico. Right. And so he carried the bill to require early voting sites in rural areas and native American area so that people would have the same access to the ballot. Right. And they put that in there, for native Americans, basically that nobody should have to wait for more than 30 minutes to be able to vote across the country. Like, isn’t that like the way it should be? It shouldn’t take us more than 30 minutes to be able to go vote.
And there’s so many other pieces of this bill that address a lot of the problems that have to do with voter disenfranchisement. For example, one of the things that we already have in New Mexico, we have paper ballots read by optical scan machines—
—and those ballots have to be retained in the long run, what are some of the other provisions that you’re excited about in this bill?
I’m excited about every single—there’s not a provision in the bill that I don’t like. And what we are going to do is there is so much in that bill that we are going to start talking about it, but in multiple efforts to talk about it, cause there’s so much in there: allowing for small money donations; requiring complete disclosure with regards to financing; having independent redistricting commissions; requiring tax disclosure—like read that bill, it is a very long bill, and every section is important to our democracy because it’s does three things. It improves access like automatic registration. It improves accountability and transparency. Like the paper ballots, it addresses within the constraints that we face with citizens United, but it addresses the campaign finance in multiple ways, including the small donation matching and the full disclosure that addresses ethics. It’s just like the bill is marvelous.
And now it has other provisions that are specific to New Mexico that come out of New Mexico’s experience—like the tribal jurisdiction. When you’re doing your redistricting, you cannot just break up tribal jurisdictions, which is something that I had to fight against in New Mexico and our redistricting cases. So we put that in there. They were disenfranchising native Americans across the United Statesm and including in New Mexico, because they don’t have addresses. Like if you’re in Taos Pueblo your addresses Taos Pueblo. Like when I was getting signatures, I said, Oh, what’s your address? It’s Taos Pueblo. In New Mexico, that works. But like in North Dakota, that’s how they were saying, well, we’re not letting you vote cause you don’t have a physical address. So it’s this like, there’s so much in that bill that we were going to have a whole session to talk about the different things in the bill, because it is so exciting. Now, the reality is we need a win in Georgia to give it a chance for that bill to become law.
Some sections of the 1965 voting rights act were gutted about seven years ago by the Supreme court. Does this bill address that?
No, there’s a different bill HR 4, that was last year. That’s now the John Lewis voting rights act bill. It will address that. But yeah, they, they intend to address that. So, but to go into detail on that, you wanted to have a very specific bill on the voting rights act.
Thanks for talking to us.
Teresa Leger Fernandez: