Results are in: Consolidating local elections was a great idea. The concept was simple: By packaging multiple races and ballot issues into a single election, local government could boost voter turnout while simplifying the voting process and streamlining costs. Gov. Susana Martinez signed the bipartisan Local Elections Act into law last year, and it was implemented this month with local elections around the state.
According to a Nov. 9 story by Journal reporter Dan McKay, the change produced results, both in Albuquerque and across New Mexico.
Nearly 24% of registered voters in Bernalillo County cast their ballots this year on races for City Council and the Albuquerque Public Schools board and important tax-dollar issues like funding for a proposed homeless shelter. Compare that to a school board and BioPark tax ballot in 2015 that saw 8% turnout in Albuquerque.
Across the state, 18% of voters turned out. The numbers may seem small, but the gains are massive. Co-sponsors Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, and former Rep. James Smith, R-Sandia Park, deserve thanks for their work on the initiative, as does Martinez for codifying the good idea.
Voter engagement is crucial for a healthy, functioning democracy. The next challenge? Helping this voter turnout train pick up steam.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.