Monday, November 30, 2009

What if they held an election and noone showed up to vote?

That may sound like a rhetorical question in a nation that prides itself on democracy, but unfortunately 2009 elections turnout has been abysmal. Last week's special election to extend a Santa Fe county tax for fire and emergency services attracted only 2108 voters, according to official results posted at the county's website. Last March, only about 8500 citizens bothered to vote in an election to raise the tax on certain home sales in the city.

Holding these special elections costs the government between $30,000 and $60,000, and deal with important "pocketbook issues", yet the vast majority of our community either wasn't aware or wasn't concerned enough to cast a vote. These days, it couldn't be easier to vote. Voting on Election Day, voting early, and voting absentee are all options for people.

At Voting Matters, we'd like to see maximum voter participation in all of our elections. During the last session, the legislature considered a bill which would allow consolidation of school district and community college elections, which also have notoriously low participation. This would be an improvement. Alternately, special elections could be eliminated, and ballot questions should be included on the general election ballot.

We think it is time to bring everything to the table for consideration. Countries with higher voter participation should be studied, with the best solutions imported onto our elections. Some ideas worth considering are election day registration, election day holiday, fining nonvoters, and better election systems. One friend suggests we have neighborhood voting temples, shrines to democracy if you will, where all of us are expected to make regular pilgrimages.

Sounds like a good idea.

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