• Gregory Z. Smith

Making Votes Count

Updated: Jan 23, 2019

I sent a 199 word letter to the editor of the Bulletin last year before the election. I may have missed if and when it was shared in print, but here is the text for others who, like me, may have missed it:

We keep trying to figure out how to get more eligible citizens voting. However, of the roughly 500,000 people eligible to register to vote in NM Congressional District 2, just 74% are registered. Of the 370,00+ registered, 65%, or 205,000, voted in 2016. This sounds good compared to our municipal races, but it still means about 130,000 haven't registered who could, and about 165,000 failed to vote who could have.

What do we need to do to get more people to register to vote and to get more than 65% of those who do register to actually vote on (or before) Election Day?

There must be more to this than just making it easier to vote. We've done that.

We can still do more to make it clear: our votes count. In the non-partisan (municipal and school board) races, let me suggest we move to ranked choice voting with a 51% threshold to win. In our partisan races (in even numbered years), let me suggest we go to "top-two" primaries that are open to all registered voters.

These and other changes can impact fully change election dynamics so that our votes indeed do clearly count. In the meantime, please vote.

To follow up, I am writing another letter regarding what the Council passed at Tuesday's meeting and what we need to consider next:

The City Council unanimously supports a 50% +1 threshold in our ranked choice elections, and I believe our NM Secretary of State will soon make that the standard. This will help our local municipal elections; most importantly by guaranteeing that those elected here have a majority of support from the voters and thereby in verifying the promise of ranked choice to make all of our votes count.

However, with longer, more complicated ballots coming, we should consider carefully how much must be on the ballot. My hat goes off to those who diligently research all of the candidates for all of the offices along with researching all of the other choices on the ballot. Unfortunately, not all of us have either time or ready access to information to be so thoroughly informed about every choice presented in our elections.

With numerous local elections all included on one ballot starting this year, it is time for serious dialogue about what does and doesn’t need to be put before the voters in our representative democracy. That serious look should happen before this year’s election because we will surely hear about it after November 5 if we haven’t done it before then.

I plan eventually to come back to the "top-two" primary discussion, also, but that is something I've been speaking out about for several years now. Below is the 300 word letter that I sent and did read in the Sun-News:

Every November, we have elections in Las Cruces and Doña Ana County: non-partisan in the odd numbered years and partisan in the even. Much has been done to get people to register and subsequently to vote, but it occurs to me that this is about more than extending early voting, registering more people, requiring minimal identification, or providing voting convenience centers.

The question is this: what else do we do to get more people to both register and vote on (or before) Election Day?

Our best national turnout ever recorded was 81.8% in 1876, and our best turn out at the national level since 2000, was in 2008 with 58.2% voting.

Here in the 2nd NM Congressional District, we had a 60% turn out of registered voters in 2000 and 65% in 2016. From 2000 to 2018, we’ve mostly seen increasing numbers of people registered to vote in CD2: 286,602 in 2000 and 370,375 in (February) 2018. Of the roughly 500,000 people eligible to do so in CD2 that’s 74% who are registered to vote.

In order for voters to believe we have real choices and that our votes truly count, there are a number of things that would seem to need to change. I’m going to suggest two of them today.

In our non-partisan elections (municipal and school district), we will better empower voters and better reflect our choices by going to all “ranked choice” voting with a 51% threshold required to win. In our partisan elections (county, state, and federal), we will more equitably and more fully engage voters by having “top-two” primaries that are open to all registered voters before the general elections.

I look forward to our duly elected representatives conscientiously helping us make these kinds of changes, but first we need to vote. Please vote.

My follow up to this letter is in the works, and I will share it soon. Still, the bottom line is this: we need our voters to know that their votes indeed do make a difference, and we need to make voting something we do regularly and always.

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