By Susannah Abbey
Voting is empowering, and even fun, but showing up on election day can sometimes be a hassle.
For years, voters in Bernalillo County might be eligible to vote in three or four elections in one year. On top of the statewide primary and general elections, Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) and Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) ran elections in February of odd-numbered years, while the villages of Tijeras and Los Ranchos ran elections in March of even-numbered years. Tax Improvement Districts and Public Improvement Development Boards, the CNM Board, and Soil and Water Conservations Districts had their own election schedules. The Albuquerque mayoral race happened on December 1. It became difficult for voters to keep track of which elections to show up for. Not all voters get a choice in every school district board election, for example, because board members represent particular districts.
In 2018, the New Mexico legislature passed the Local Election Act. The law served two purposes: first, to end election by acclamation, in which candidates running unopposed could be seated in office without ever appearing on the ballot and, second, to make it easier for voters to turn out for smaller, nonpartisan elections. With this law, all nonpartisan elections will take place at the same time as Statewide general elections, on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of odd-numbered years. Voters will have a chance to select candidates for school board, Soil and Water Conservation District Board, vote on bond issues and constitutional amendments. There will still be primary elections held in the spring, and partisan general elections in November of even-numbered years. And special elections will still occur at different times throughout the year.
The City of Albuquerque, the Village of Los Ranchos, and the Village of Tijeras, which run partisan elections, had the choice to opt-in to the new law. All of these Bernalillo County municipalities have chosen to participate.
Money for the consolidated elections is allocated by the State legislature and paid for out of State coffers. I asked if a consolidated election meant lower costs to the taxpayers of New Mexico.
“It’s hard to say that the State is saving money,” said Jaime Diaz, Deputy County Clerk, says, “but we already did this in 2019, and we saw higher voter turnout.”
Voters, Diaz said, still need to familiarize themselves with what they are voting on, know what precinct they are in. To this end, the County Clerk’s office will continue to reach out to voters through social media and press releases.
“There is only so much that the County Clerk can do,” he said. “We can’t compile information and put it on our web site, but we can give links to information.” The League of Women Voters creates voter guides with information about candidates and ballot issues, and is an important resource. The Clerk’s office includes a link to the guide on their web site.
To read the full text of the Local Election Act, go to: laws.nmonesource.com
NOTE: The 2021 Municipal Elections cycle gets underway in Albuquerque and Santa Fe March 1, at which time mayoral candidates and others announce their intentions whether to seek public financing. For a full calendar of important dates in the Albuquerque municipal election, see https://www.cabq.gov/vote/candidate-information/candidate-calendar-for-the-2021-regular-local-election