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Republican Senator's filibuster kills voting legislation

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KSFR News/Kevin Meerschaert
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Senator William Sharer speaking on the Senate floor

A push to enact voting legislation backed by Democratic leaders at the Roundhouse died in the final minutes of the 30-day session Thursday.

Senate Republicans used a filibuster to run out the clock.

According to a report by the Albuquerque Journal, the standoff came after lawmakers worked through the night and agreed to send a hefty tax cut package and broad crime bill to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk.

The voting legislation was the center of much of the last minute drama. It would have required ballot drop boxes and established a permanent absentee voter list, among other changes to the election code.

The proposal, known as Senate Bill 144, passed the House on a 39-30 vote just before 10:00am, after three hours of debate.

This sent it off to the Senate with just two hours remaining in the session.

But Senator William Sharer, a Republican from Farmington effectively killed the measure, using a filibuster on the Senate floor.

Sharer spoke about San Juan River fly-fishing, baseball rules, the celestial alignment of the sun and the moon, and Navajo Code Talkers.

He started speaking at about 9:35am, and continued through adjournment.

During his filibuster, Senators mulled around and chatted, with some even taking pictures next to Sharer as he spoke.

Under Senate rules, debate can be halted after two hours, but since Sharer’s filibuster was technically not occurring during debate of a bill, but instead taking place during announcement to the chamber, he could keep the floor without a time limit.

No Senate Democrat attempted to interrupt. The bill was a blend of three election bills, one of which was blocked by a procedural maneuver in the Senate.

The bill would’ve restored the voting rights of people convicted of a felony upon release from incarceration, allowed voters to sign up once to receive absentee ballots for every general election, and other provisions would have established a Native American voting rights act, which would directed counties to offer a secured, monitored drop boxes for absentee ballots and made it a crime to threaten or intimidate state and county election officials.