SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A bill that would prohibit firearms at New Mexico polling places during elections with exceptions for police officers cleared its first hurdle at the Legislature on Wednesday.
A Senate panel voted 6-3 along party lines, with Republicans in opposition, to advance the bill from Democratic Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth of Santa Fe. A second committee endorsement could send the bill to a full Senate vote.
New Mexico already prohibits guns on school grounds, where many election polls are located. But firearms can be carried at many other polling locations, openly or with a concealed-handgun permit.
Under the proposed changes, New Mexico would join at least 12 other states that prohibit guns and weapons at polling places, including neighboring Texas and Arizona.
Wirth said he heard concerns from constituents in his district about firearms at polls during the 2022 election cycle, including one person who decided to stop working at the polls because people were bringing guns with them to vote.
“I just don't think guns and elections mix,” Wirth said. “What we're trying to do is keep guns out of polling places."
Guns would be prohibited within 100 feet (30 meters) of any polling location.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca of Belen voted against the measure and said he preferred that poll workers be able to carry a gun as a defense against people who might flout the restrictions.
GOP Sen. Mark Moores of Albuquerque unsuccessfully suggested an amendment that would allow people with concealed-handgun permits to bring their guns to the polls.
He said those gun carriers might leave there gun in the car where it could be stolen while voting.
Additional gun-control proposals would ban assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition clips, amid staunch opposition to the restrictions from Republican legislators.