The county clerk expects thousands of voters to turn out for the Doña Ana Soil and Water Conservation District (DASWCD) election on Tuesday.
Two seats on the board are up for grabs. The candidates are Joe Delk and Kevin Bixby for position 3 and D. Craig Fenske and Kent Thurston for position 4. Only people living in Zone 3 or Zone 4 are eligible to vote.
Interest in and turnout for DASWCD elections has grown significantly in recent years.
State law requires soil and water conservation districts to administer their own elections. The DASWCD operates on a limited budget. At its request, the Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office has assisted with its elections for the past three years.
Doña Ana County Clerk Scott Krahling said in a news release that his office is “happy to partner” with the district on its election but wants county residents to understand how the law and budget constraints hinder “the abilities of both the clerk’s office and the conservation district to administer an election that voters deserve.”
“In short, we anticipate thousands of voters, so expect long lines on Election Day,” Krahling said. “We will do the best we can with our limited resources.”
This type of election, governed by its own law rather than the election code that applies for many larger elections in New Mexico, allows no early-voting period and a limited absentee-voting period of 10 days. The deadline to request an absentee ballot for this election has already passed.
“Budget constraints also limit the equipment that can be deployed on Election Day,” Krahling said. “Since the clerk’s office also has a limited budget, the equipment we use for this election is not the standard voting equipment, and we only have enough equipment to open six locations.”
The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day. The six polling locations are the Doña Ana County Government Center, the Sage Cafe and Good Samaritan Village in Las Cruces; Betty McKnight Community Center in Chaparral; Anthony Municipal Complex; and the Vado/Del Cerro Community Center near Mesquite.
The voter check-in process will also be different than for other elections run by the county. It requires voters to sign an application to get a ballot instead of a signature pad or paper signature roster. Electronic tabulators will not be used to tally votes, so poll workers will hand tally all ballots.
Since electronic tabulators will not be used, there will not be ballot marking technology available for people with visual impairments. Those voters will have to obtain assistance from others including poll workers. Anyone can assist voters who need help marking their ballots, including poll workers.
Krahling has been a recent advocate for election reforms, including consolidating most local elections in New Mexico — such as those for soil and water conservation districts — into one.
Proponents argue consolidating elections would increase voter turnout by making it easier for people to understand when and where they can vote and bring more attention to elections by having more candidates and issues on one ballot. The proposal would also standardize elections by bringing the smaller elections under the state’s elections code and the same rules that govern county, state and federal races.
As for Tuesday’s election, KRWG hosted a forum, but only two of the candidates — Bixby and Fenske — agreed to attend. You can watch here:
You can also learn more about Bixby and Fenske at a website created to support their candidacies. The website doesn’t disclose who paid for it. The law governing the conservation district election doesn’t require such transparency, which would be required under the election-consolidation proposal.
The other two candidates don’t appear to have campaign websites.