Every four years, Americans flock to the polls in droves to elect a new president. Last year, more than 155 million people cast their ballots, most of them just happy that the campaign was finally over, at least for a minute.
Two year later, we have the mid-term elections, where we elect a new governor, and all members of both the state and U.S. House are up for re-election. Next year, voters will get to weigh in for the first time on the governor’s aggressive public health order to combat COVID-19.
In odd-numbered years like this one, we get the ugly stepchild of the electoral system - municipal and school board elections. Unlike the big, national campaigns that make themselves impossible to ignore, local elections can sneak up on you. Early voting started Oct. 5 for this year’s election, which will be held on Nov. 2.
A few years ago, the Legislature did voters a huge favor by requiring that all local elections be held on the same day. This year, seats on the Las Cruces City Council, Las Cruces Board of Education and the Dona Ana Soil and Water Conservation Board will be at stake, as well as similar boards in smaller towns throughout the county.
This will be a transitional election for the City Council, with two members stepping down to seek other positions. Gill Sorg will be running for a spot on the soil and water board, while Gabe Vasquez will be looking ahead to the 2022 election, where he plans to challenge Rep. Yvette Herrell for her seat in Congress.
Local elections can be a lot more challenging for voters. Because the elections are nonpartisan, voters don’t have the crutch of simply casting their ballots for the R or D.
And, there won’t be a lot of TV ads helping the candidates introduce themselves to voters. With two open seats, there are a lot of candidates this year running for the first time. That can make it tough for voters to make an informed decision.
Fortunately, the COVID vaccines will allow for more normal campaigns this year, with candidates able to host meet-and-greets, go door-to-door and engage in the other traditional campaign events to get their message to the voters.
Both KTAL-LP 101.5 FM community radio and KRWG TV are hosting candidate forums that will be available online. Local newspapers will also help provide information. And, one of the best resources for voters is the candidates’ own website, where the message is always unfiltered.
Local elections may be more challenging for voters, but they’re worth the effort. Decisions made by the local city council and school board have a more immediate and direct impact on our daily lives than edicts that flow down from Washington, D.C.
The Las Cruces City Council increased the minimum wage for local workers before the state did. We’re still waiting on Congress. They were also ahead of the state and feds in banning plastic bags. And, they are currently working on the thorny issue of determining when your noisy neighbor crosses the line and is too loud for the law to allow.
The Las Cruces school board drew protests this year when it changed its curriculum in an attempt to make it more inclusive for students of all cultures and nationalities. Several parents expressed concerns that the change would lead to an indoctrination of the students, and to a belittlement of the dominant culture.
We have the power to shape those critical decisions moving forward by voting this year.
Walter Rubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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