FARMINGTON — Scheduling federal, county, city and school district elections on different days throughout the year is causing confusion and depressing voter turnout, some officials say.
State law requires the spread out scheduling, election officials say.
"I think it's hard sometimes for them (residents) to know there's all these special elections," County Clerk Debbie Holmes said, adding that it's also difficult for residents to know the dates of the elections. That confusion, she said, can reduce voter turnout.
According to New Mexico statute, cities must host their elections on the first Tuesday in March of even-numbered years. State statute also dictates that school districts host their school board elections on the first Tuesday in February of odd-numbered years.
And the county hosts primary elections on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in June of even-numbered years. It hosts general elections the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of even-numbered years, according to state statute.
Special elections are scheduled separately, Holmes said. The county held a local option district election on Dec. 3, and Farmington Municipal School District held a bond election on Feb. 4.
Farmington City Clerk Dianne Smylie said election workers told her voters were confused when they arrived at the school bond election, thinking they were also voting in Farmington's election scheduled for March 4.
But Pat Cordell, San Juan County Republican Party chairman, said those determined to vote will vote.
The elections' scheduling could cause confusion, he said, but it's never caused him any.
"I think it's a pretty good system," he said.
Photo identification should be required at the polls, he said, to reduce voter fraud. He said the requirement would not disenfranchise voters as some claim. Those voters would only have to get the identification at a "reputable" location, he said.
Election officials said voter fraud does not appear to be a significant problem in San Juan County.
Dianne McCants, San Juan County Democratic Party chairman, was unavailable as of deadline on Monday to respond to Cordell's comments.
Holmes said the Dec. 3 special election cost the county $47,000. The 2012 primary election cost the county almost $100,000, she said.
Also, she said, the state now buys voting machines and provides voting-on-demand ballots for the county. The voting-on-demand is a system that prints ballots as needed to avoid generating documents that are not needed. Voting machines cost between $6,000 and $7,000, she said, and the county needs at least one for each of its 77 precincts.
Smylie said Farmington's budget for the March 4 election is $44,000, though it includes voters from all the city's districts.
Randy Bondow, Farmington school district business and finance assistant superintendent, on Monday was unable to immediately provide costs for the district's elections.