Consolidating smaller elections makes sense to many

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Many readers agreed with a recent commentary arguing that the state should consolidate smaller elections to save money and increase voter participation.

As this line of voters illustrates, turnout for the Soil and Water Conservation District election in May was higher than normal -- though still at about xx percent. But in general, turnout for such elections is low.  Many believe consolidating smaller elections would reduce costs, increase public awareness and raise voter turnout.

Heath Haussamen / NMPolitics.net

Turnout for the Doña Ana County Soil and Water Conservation District election in May was higher than normal — though still at only about 3 percent. In general, turnout for such elections is low. Many believe consolidating smaller elections would reduce costs, increase public awareness and raise voter turnout.

Merging elections for government agencies like school boards and water distircts would allow them to share costs and have more polling places. It would “lead to more discussion throughout the community” to remind people to vote. And it would allow county clerks, who are most experienced, to oversee elections. That’s what former Doña Ana County Chief Deputy Clerk Mario O. Jimenez III argued in the commentary.

Many agree.

“Duh. It totally makes sense. And will increase turnout,” Jim O’Donnell of Taos wrote in a discussion I facilitated on my Facebook page.

“Anything that better connects elected officials to the larger population they serve, instead of super-motivated minorities, is a good thing,” wrote Andrea Orzoff of Las Cruces. “It’s simpler, smarter, and less expensive to consolidate these elections.”

The state’s county clerks have pushed to consolidate smaller elections for years. A bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, to make the change passed the House earlier this year but not the Senate. It would have merged elections for school boards, special hospital districts, community college boards, technical or vocational districts, school bonds, flood-control districts, conservancy districts, and district supervisors.

Not all agree that merging elections would save money, according to the bill’s fiscal impact report. The Secretary of State’s Office worried that “running all of these elections concurrently may cause the counties to need to obtain extra equipment such as ballot boxes, tabulators and ballot on demand systems,” according to the report.

On the other hand, the county clerk’s affiliate said that, without the change, “entities responsible for holding elections will continue to spend thousands of tax dollars on elections with little public participation,” the report states.

‘Definitely for this’

In a discussion I facilitated on NMPolitics.net’s Facebook page, Vickie Connally of Loving worried that consolidation would “politicize races that are not usually political — especially in rural areas, i.e. school boards, water boards.”

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Most others said consolidation is a good idea.

“Few enough people vote in the bigger elections and the smaller election turnouts are even more pathetic. They should be clustered,” wrote William Daumueller of Las Cruces. “Those who love minority control will be against this but it makes total sense.”

“Consolidate. Yes,” wrote Elaine Lindsey of Taos. She explained that, as a voter, she is “lost at times” about what she’s voting on, and when smaller elections “appear out of thin air,” often “media coverage is nil, and finding out dates and locations is fairly daunting at times.”

John Novello of Las Cruces wrote that such a change “may create longer lines at the polls and require additional locations to handle the increased wait and traffic,” but in endorsing consolidated elections, he explained, “we should also see the increased participation.”

Barbara Alvarez of Las Cruces agreed.

“Definitely for this,” she wrote. “Less worrying about when an election is scheduled and actually making it out to vote.”

Edwina Hewett of Mountainair agreed.

“People are desensitized by the never-ending campaign cycle. If this would reduce that people might be better motivated to participate,” Hewett wrote.

Steve Reynolds of Las Cruces said he supports the change but wonders “how cooperative the various staff people in these organizations will be in coordinating these elections.”

“They are used to doing it one particular way,” Reynolds wrote. “Change is frowned upon.”

At least one person who backs the idea was skeptical it will happen.

“Too smart and reasonable to pass through the gauntlet of special interests,” wrote David Michael Horine of Albuquerque.

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