Friday, March 02, 2018

How I accidentally stumped the City Clerk



Yesterday, I stopped by City Hall to cast my ballot early in Deming's municipal election and ask a couple of questions for a "voters' guide" story I was finishing up for the Deming Headlight.

Just the particulars: who can vote, what's on the ballot, where do they vote on Tuesday. I thought it would be quick and easy, confirming or clarifying what I gleaned from reading the election resolutions themselves.

Ah, but then I came at them with the question where you see the rug come out from someone's feet and they say, "Aaaaaaaah."

Here is what I asked: "What's the deal with nonresident municipal voters?"

The Nonresident Municipal Voter is a peculiar problem that, it turns out, isn't going to come up because no one in the world noticed it except the one nerd who actually read the election resolution.

So the ballot has exactly two questions on it: (1) who do you want to be Mayor and (2) should we borrow $3 million to help fix our horrible streets?

For the mayoral election, there is a very simple answer to who can vote: registered voters living in city limits. Done.

For the bond question, passed in a separate resolution by the City Council, the rules are different. In addition to voters within city limits, registered Luna County voters who live outside city limits but paid property tax on a property within city limits since March 6 of last year can vote on the bond question - but only on that question.

For instance, people who own a commercial building for their business in town, but live out in the county. They could actually cast a vote on the bond question.

I wondered how that worked. They can't rip the ballot in half. Presumably they also can't look over your shoulder to make sure you don't vote for the other question. So what would they do?

When I asked this question the city clerk had no idea what I was talking about and referred me to the City Administrator. While waiting for him to get back to me (and he did, by the way, in between meetings), I looked up the state statute, where I learned that in order for one of these nonresident municipal voters to cast a ballot, they would have had to file a certificate of eligibility no later than, by my count, Feb. 19.

Which, I gather from the confusion my question caused, no one had done.

So theoretically, there are people who could have voted in the bond election who perhaps did not simply because they didn't know they could.

These resolutions passed back in December. I regret I didn't notice this back then and write about it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just now read your blog on the bond issue. I too wish I had known about that clause. I didn't think it was fair that I couldn't vote for something that affected me because my primary residence is in the county. Next time I'll know.