Election Day is less than three weeks away — it’s time to get down to the business of deciding.
After all, in-person absentee voting is taking place now and early voting begins Saturday (find the polling locations at www.santafecountynm.gov/clerk). Smart, motivated voters will take advantage of casting their ballots early, saving time and ensuring that their choices will count.
Early voting in New Mexico means avoiding long lines on Election Day, something we recommend in an election where voters of all persuasions have important choices on the ballot. Enthusiasm appears high, too, with the Secretary of State’s Office reporting that 34,625 ballots have been cast statewide as of Wednesday — and that’s without early voting officially open.
With New Mexicans choosing a U.S. senator, three members of the House of Representatives, a governor and deciding people to fill various other statewide offices, the ballot could take a long time to get through. That’s without considering contested county elections, bond questions, any tax proposals and two state constitutional amendments up for a vote. We urge voters to take their time and fill in all the ovals.
In every election, we at The New Mexican conduct interviews, attend forums, read the words of candidates in articles and voters guides, ask people about the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses, listen to interviews on the radio and watch TV debates. This is separate from the news coverage our political team puts together.
After all of that, we offer readers our considered opinions about which candidates deserve their votes.
Obviously, the only opinion that matters is the voter’s. And what matters most is that people vote. For democracy to work, it’s essential to have more participants in our system. For that reason, we are starting out endorsements by talking about a question that would change the city charter of Santa Fe.
A new state law, the Local Elections Act, gives cities, school boards and other entities the opportunity to move their elections to November.
Even years would be partisan elections, with races for governor or president or senator and the like; odd years would be nonpartisan, such as races for mayor, school board or the community college board, as well as questions about taxes or issuing bonds.
Every year, November would be election month. No more ignoring the February school board election or the March municipal elections because life is too busy and the day to vote just slipped by. No more confusion about just what is on the ballot. No more low-publicity and even lower-turnout votes for bonds.
Because Santa Fe operates under a city charter, elected leaders are taking the question of changing the date of the election to voters this November. The question is simple: “Shall the Santa Fe Municipal Charter be amended to allow the City to enact by ordinance its election date and the date on which officials take office as provided in the Local Election Act?”
We support this change and hope that voters will too.
In addition to standardizing elections, the new date for city voting does something important — it introduces a transition period from voting to governing. Right now, the election takes place on a Tuesday in March and elected officials — mayor, councilors or municipal judge — are sworn in six days later. That’s hardly enough time, especially for a brand-new mayor who is charged with hiring top officials and jumping into the budget process.
Approval would mean the city charter is amended to change the election date, establish a transition and shorten the terms of officials. Terms of office after any city election would begin Jan. 1, allowing an actual transition. For example, councilors elected in 2019 would take office Jan. 1, 2020. The next election for mayor would take place in 2021, not 2022.
Voters in the city of Santa Fe should vote yes on the question of amending the city charter so that municipal elections can be moved to November. In the recent mayoral and council election, the first with ranked-choice voting, some 38.05 percent of voters took part. That’s all, yet that was an improvement over the 29.4 percent of voters who participated in the 2014 mayoral election. We must do better.
Moving municipal elections to November will increase participation. When that happens, we all benefit.
Today: City charter amendments
Saturday: U.S. Senate, Congress
Monday: Supreme Court justice, Court of Appeals judges
Tuesday: Statewide offices
Wednesday: Bonds, constitutional amendments, regional transit district tax
Thursday: State House of Representative s contests, Santa Fe County Commission