My Turn

Opinion: Let's iron out the kinks in voting infrastructure

By Kate Keely
Posted 11/20/19

On Nov. 5, I headed to the courthouse around 4 p.m. to vote. The clerk explained there was no voting at the courthouse, only local polling stations, because it was such a small election. Another woman who came to vote was as disappointed as I was.

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My Turn

Opinion: Let's iron out the kinks in voting infrastructure

Posted

On Nov. 5, I headed to the courthouse around 4 p.m. to vote. The clerk explained there was no voting at the courthouse, only local polling stations, because it was such a small election. Another woman who came to vote was as disappointed as I was.

I headed for my polling station, the Las Cordovas Community Center. The building was gated and there were no signs or lights on. I went to the old armory where a small sign on the locked door stated the armory was no longer a polling station.

I called the phone number on the sign and was told Las Cordovas had been closed because of a gas heating problem. The substitute polling station was at a firehouse across the street from the sanitation plant. I drove up and down the dark road in front of the plant looking for lights or signs, but found none. The water tower across the street was the only thing visible.

When I got home, I was pretty unhinged that, despite traveling to four polling places, my dogged persistence hadn't enabled me to vote. I belatedly remembered being unable to find that firehouse years ago. I learned afterward that the polling station was across a side road, not the main road. Perhaps if it had been lighted, I might have seen it.

How difficult would it have been to redirect voters with signage and lighting from a closed to an open polling station? The voters are not the problem; the infrastructure is. Since the courthouse, the backbone of our voting infrastructure, was already set up for early voting, why not continue accepting voters on election day?

Since media communication is a critical pillar of this infrastructure, perhaps the Taos News could assign one reporter to cover on-the-ground digital updates on where and when to vote and any polling redirects in the system.

Taos has a noble history of proactive, political involvement. With proper, efficient media, lighting and signage, we could potentially better utilize our powerful sense of civic duty and thereby increase our voting numbers.

I realize it was a small election and the school board members ran unopposed. But the point is to make voting an ingrained habit, a commitment, that can be easily accommodated. As the only political power we exercise, voting ascends to a sacred duty. We have to show up.

Our historically weak participation in voting indicates insufficient value is being placed on our citizenship and our democracy. Ours is the only successful democracy in history. Citizens who are too busy, don't think their vote matters or opt to not let daily politics aggravate them, forfeit a rare privilege that could easily be lost due to collective apathy. Then what? A renewed battle against tyranny and dictatorship? All those valiant soldiers who died to maintain our democracy would roll over and moan in their graves.

Let's push to make voting day a national holiday, or at least legislate that workers be released to vote. In order to offset election interference from abroad and voter suppression at home, we will need massive voter turnout. That power is in the hands of the people.

The success of the 2018 elections and the recent election of Democrats and progressives in Kentucky, Virginia, Louisiana, San Francisco and Seattle were outstanding steps forward. This is the beginning of what needs to be an all-out movement to retake our democracy. We must remember that if we don't work constantly to keep it alive and well, our government by the people can slip away in an instant.

Our presidential primary in June will be one of the most important elections in our history. Since our state primaries are still not open, voting will be limited to registered Democrats, Republicans and libertarians. Registered greens and independents will be turned away. Those voters should register temporarily as Democrat, Republican or libertarian, and then reregister back to their party of choice after the primary. It's easy to do at nmvote.org.

Our Climate Generation can now, for the first time, vote in the primary in June as long as they will be 18 by November, 2020. Let's get them registered.

We need to vote like our lives depended on it - because in many ways they do.

Kate Keely is a retired teacher and social worker who lives in Ranchos de Taos.

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