ELECTION SAFEGUARDS IN PLACE AT DOÑA ANA COUNTY

ELECTION SAFEGUARDS IN PLACE AT DOÑA ANA COUNTY

By David R. King
Doña Ana County Manager

Recent events in the Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office may have some voters concerned about whether the county is able to efficiently conduct the 2000 General Elections. The answer is yes.

The deadline for submission of this column is Sept. 10, 2002. As I write, there are legal issues surrounding the leadership in the clerk’s office, and those issues have yet to be resolved. Regardless of whether County Clerk Ruben Ceballos and/or Chief Deputy Clerk Aurelio Enriquez are exonerated or removed from office, the county has an obligation to ensure to the highest possible degree that a plan is in place by which the elections can be administered fairly and accurately.

If the current leadership stays in place, then it will be their responsibility to oversee the election. Based on past concerns, however, the Office of the State Attorney General has made it clear that it will closely monitor the elections. The County Manager’s Office has provided support to both the Clerk’s Office and the Attorney General in past elections and will continue to do so. We believe that no matter how talented the local team is, there is always room for improvement, and we will continue to provide the necessary support as it is requested or indicated.

In the event that the Board of County Commissioners has to choose a new county clerk, several names of retired elections specialists from counties all over New Mexico have been identified. One of these people could be tapped to take over the reins of the Clerk’s Office and/or hired as a consultant to come in and help oversee the elections.

Whatever the outcome of the current situation, the county is committed to fair and impartial elections. Our Bureau of Elections is working to construct new and thorough training manuals for poll workers, poll judges and other volunteers. We plan to incorporate the new materials into a comprehensive training program that will facilitate professionalism across the board.

Elections are complicated undertakings, and every county has its share of glitches during the throes of Election Day. The challenge is to anticipate potential problems and to have a plan in place to address them. We believe we’re well on the road to meeting the challenges we are sure to face. With the patience of the voters and the promised assistance and oversight from the state, we’re hopeful and confident that the General Elections of 2002 will be conducted in a professional manner.

All that said, we welcome the input of concerned citizens. We want our voting process to be as transparent and open as possible, and we will not shrink from constructive criticism about past, present or future performance. Beyond setting the parameters of the annual budget, the Manager’s Office has very limited power over the operation of any elected official’s office. Even so, when we see that a problem exists, we find resources statewide that we can bring to bear on the situation. That is why we have been – and will continue to be – in close contact with the Attorney General’s Office.

Sometimes local events seem overwhelming, but the County Manager’s Office seeks to keep a broad view. When we see an area where help is needed, we either provide it directly or identify entities that can bring change to bear. We share the public’s concern about proper elections procedures, and we’re doing all we can to facilitate the process.