COMMENTARY: Over 90 percent of registered voters in Doña Ana County do not vote in local elections. Over 90 percent of people are not being seen, not being heard, and are not being included in the decisions that impact their daily lives — decisions that are meant to increase our quality of life and preserve our dignity.
This is unacceptable.
Democracy in Doña Ana County is in crisis. We need an analysis that applies to our local communities to increase voter participation. False assumptions do not fix problems. If we want to turn that number around in the next few years, then we have to do something different. We cannot begin to solve the problem if we do not know the problem.
The County Clerk’s Office has begun the work of engaging voters for the purpose of listening to them and developing a local analysis, and we invite you to join us.
On Saturday, Sept. 16 at 9 a.m., the Clerk’s Office and the Election Advisory Council have organized A Community Conversation: Democracy in Doña Ana County, at the Government Center, 845 N. Motel Blvd., to listen to people in our community about why people are not voting, and more importantly, how to inspire them to vote.
The event is free and open to the public. We have also made efforts in the past several months to reach out to people between the ages of 18-35 who only voted in the general election to invite them to join us.
I am a native and this is my community. I am employed with the Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office and I have learned to manage elections, from local elections to the primary and general elections. Understanding elections from the administrative side has affirmed my confidence in secure elections in our county. In fact, New Mexico is in the top three states for secure elections and best practices, which is refreshing since we are on the bottom of so many other lists.
The best part of my job is that I get to think about voting every single day. I am passionate about democracy and elections. It is my dream to build a voting culture in Doña Ana County. Thus, I want all of us to think about voting, and incorporate it into our daily lives and culture.
During my time in the Clerk’s Office and before as a community organizer, I have spoken with hundreds of people about their ideas on voting — everything from why people are not voting to what we should be doing to get people to vote. We have done our best to take all those ideas and turn them into something practical to increase participation.
We work hard toward this vision, and the fact remains that over 90 percent of people are being left out of the process. So we choose to do something different because we do not want to grow another generation of people in our community who do not vote. Our future generations deserve something better than a broken election system.
I argue that part of the problem is what I refer to as the “I know” culture fueled by campaign messages, national agendas, and, often, abuse of terms such as “voter fraud.” On the positive side, there has been much research done at the national level on voting trends as well.
Although these things may provide some insight, their purpose is not to provide an accurate analysis of voting patterns specific to local communities. So we are required to do the work if we truly want to know why over 90 percent of eligible voters in our county do not vote in local elections. We have to be our own experts.
Join us in leaving the “I know” culture behind, and let’s get to work building a voting culture in Doña Ana County. Let’s begin gathering the evidence by engaging with people 1-1, inviting them to participate, and listening. Then let’s use the information they bring to the table to develop an analysis that applies to our county that leads to real solutions.
Democracy is local. It is where we elect officials who make decisions to raise our quality of life, and every vote counts in a local election. The Clerk’s Office will work harder to restore democracy in Doña Ana County but we cannot do it alone. We should not do it alone, because democracy only works when everyone participates.
Rose Ann Vasquez is a native Las Crucen who is passionate about increasing civic engagement in our community. She is also employed in the Bureau of Elections in the Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office. Agree with her opinion? Disagree? NMPolitics.net welcomes your views. Learn about submitting your own commentary here.