Wednesday, February 06, 2008

New Mexican voters deserve better

Maggie says:
The more I'm reading about the NM Democratic "Caucus" yesterday, the more I feel like those responsible should be deeply ashamed of themselves. I was kidding last night during the live-blog about Secretary of State Mary Herrera being at fault, and I realize that yesterday's primary wasn't a state-run election, but my gut reaction about fundamental top-to-bottom problems is telling. I have nothing but low expectations for electoral smoothness in New Mexico, and at this point my knee-jerk Herrera reaction comes from something very real, namely disaster after disaster in Bernalillo County when she was Clerk. It shouldn't be so difficult to allow New Mexicans to vote and then have those votes counted. But when it comes to running elections, New Mexico is shockingly behind every other state in the country, and the sooner it really understands that, the better. It can be funny sometimes, I get that and laugh/groan at it too... but it's also not so funny all the time. It's downright embarrassing.

I hope the New Mexico Democratic Party will do a lot of soul-searching after this debacle. I'm going to start with Chair Brian Colón, who by some incredible lapse of judgment actually believed that only 40,000 Democrats would turn out yesterday. During the most contested - and arguably exciting - Democratic primary we've ever had. In a state with razor-thin margins, always. In a state "led" by a man who was until recently a contender in the race. That's just an irredeemable error on his part. Final tally from yesterday? 131,573 voters. You know, only 91,573 more than he expected.

Journal: "Colón tried to put the best face on the voter stack-ups: Asked whether he had been getting reports of long lines at numerous locations, he said, 'I'm hearing (of) high participation.'"
And he said it with a grin, right? Let's just go ahead and call that the worst euphemism of the year. Making light of the kind of voting chaos that went on as the clock ticked by yesterday (with people in lines for hours in the cold, by the way) isn't meant to be grinned at.

Another issue: the fact that polling places didn't open until noon yesterday. Are you kidding me? My jaw dropped when I read that. We start with all the indicators for high turnout that every seventh-grader in the state could have seen except for the Democratic Party Chair, factor in that when it came down to it, the party decided to accommodate only 40,000 voters, and then not have the polls open until noon?

Oh wait, one more fun fact: let's combine the hell out of precincts until we end up with, say, one voting location for the entire City of Rio Rancho. You know, the third-largest city in the state?

Ridiculous. FBI HOP has all the dirt on what happened in Rio Rancho, and it's bad. Reader Hilary is right: that's disenfranchisement, folks.

I take Hilary's comment about the volunteers running the operations yesterday to heart: they were "battle-worn in a way I've never seen before." And why wouldn't they be? They were asked to perform yesterday in a framework set up for failure.
This takes me right back to Barb's writing from Democracy for New Mexico that I pointed out this morning. She really does sum up this entire disaster perfectly:
"The unpaid county and state officers worked like dogs, as did the paid state party staff. You can imagine which party members weren't around to help in any way. They all hold offices or are candidates or are "name" politicos or big Dem donors. No sign of them anywhere work was being done, or where a few pizzas or donuts might be welcome. Very troubling, to say the least. I wonder what the former presidential candidate and all his pals did all day and into the night. After all, a Caucus was originally his idea."
Shame on everyone at the top who let last night happen. New Mexico deserves much better than this. And the longer there's an empty results box beside New Mexico's name, the rest of the country knows it, too.