With ranked-choice voting slated to happen in the March municipal election — barring a New Mexico Supreme Court decision declaring it unconstitutional, of course — there is bound to be some confusion. This is new, after all.
But voters can take the worry out of voting by attending one of the several forums put on by the city of Santa Fe to help them navigate their choices.
Starting Tuesday, voters can learn how to mark their ballots. The forum lasts from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m. at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center, 3221 Rodeo Road, primarily aimed at voters in District 4. It’s the first in a series. From 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 16, voters can gather at the Southside Library, 6599 Jaguar Drive; this forum is aimed at District 3 voters.
On Saturday, Jan. 20, there are two forums: from 10 a.m to noon, at the Center for Progress and Justice, 1420 Cerrillos Road, for District 2 voters, and 2 to 4 p.m., at the Main Library, 145 Washington Ave., for District 1 voters. We’re certain, however, that citizens can go to the forum that suits their schedules and still find answers.
We hope voters show up, ready to learn and to ask questions. Because, yes, ranked-choice voting is different. In the mayor’s race, for example, the five candidates will be listed in order down the ballot. Across the top, voters will find the headers, 1st choice, 2nd choice, 3rd choice, 4th choice and 5th choice. The new system of voting was approved by voters as a charter amendment in 2008, the idea being that ranked-choice voting provides what amounts to an instant runoff. The intent behind ranked-choice voting is for whoever wins to have broad support.
Using the new system, voters will fill in the circle under each header by the candidate’s name, indicating their choices in order of preference. The same process will be repeated in council races where more than two candidates are running — in District 1, 2 and 4 (District 3 candidate Roman Abeyta is unopposed). The ballot design is intuitive, but anything new can be confusing.
Election Day is not until March 6, but absentee voting by mail or in person begins Jan. 30 and early voting starts Feb. 14. Time is running out, in other words, for people to understand the new way to choose a mayor and city councilors. These forums are important steps in voter education, as is the website, votedifferentsantafe.com, where you can see the ballot and look at frequently asked questions.
With the election around the corner, now is the time to learn more about ranked-choice voting.