Observer Report of Public Meeting in Commissioners’ Chambers, 22 July 2006, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon.

Submitted by Johnnie R. Aldrich

           Fewer than 30 people attended this little-publicized meeting, but those who came were well prepared. 

           The Panel, in order to hear as many people as possible, asked speakers to confine themselves to a 5-minute limit.  By 11:15, only 4 presenters had spoken.  One of those gave the Panel a multi-page set of supporting documents; another presented a written detailing of efforts to vote that were thwarted because of last-minute changes in polling places and their names being erroneously purged from the voting lists.  A total of eleven citizens presented complaints, 3 of whom had served as Presiding Judges, 2 of whom were former poll workers.

           One of the most frequently heard complaints was from people, like this observer, who had gone through the available poll worker training and signed up to work but were never assigned to a polling place.

           “No-show” poll workers appear to be a consistent problem, but testimony suggests that, too often, these poll workers were paid anyway.   

           The meeting, in short, was a litany of errors and inadequacies and failure to follow the law as it is delineated in the NEW MEXICO ELECTION HANDBOOK.  One participant offered the opinion that these failures to follow the law should be investigated by a Grand Jury, as provided in federal law, not by this Review Panel.  Another participant proclaimed that, finally, “When things do go wrong, no one ever is held accountable; no one ever admits error or accepts responsibility.”

           To be fair, I admit that I have focused on the negative in this report.  HOWEVER, several speakers, especially those who had served as presiding judges, offered specific suggestions about how to improve the voting process, all aspects of it, from choosing poll workers to the turning in of ballot boxes and the final canvassing.

           Panel Co-Chair Sylva-Sutton, who chaired this meeting, thanked the participants for their valuable input and service to the community.  Though participation seemed slight because of the small number of attendees, the Panel seemed content with the result of the meeting because of the huge amount of thoroughly authenticated data presented to them.