On Tuesday, the Roswell City Council met for a special meeting and chose to set six voting locations for the upcoming municipal elections on March 6.
City Clerk Sharon Coll prepared a map of the city with the voting convenience centers for the councilors to decide on the locations.
Councilor Barry Foster asked how much the voting convenience centers cost, and Coll said that the centers can cost from $3,500 to $5,000 based on supplies, equipment rented by the county, machines, poll workers, and other factors.
A city ordinance requires a polling location in each of the City Council’s five wards.
Coll said she selected venues based on the numbers from the voting convenience centers in the municipal elections in 2014 and 2016. The voting convenience centers recommended by Coll were for Roswell Museum & Art Center, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, West Country Club Church of Christ, Waymaker Church, and the Chaves County Clerk’s Office.
Foster said looking at the map that the locations veered too north. He suggested limiting centers in the south of Roswell could limit votes.
“We say our major gem is the airport, and we are going to be pushing for everything to move towards the airport, develop it, and then not put a voting center for the convenience of all the workers at the airport,” Foster said. “I know in the past we’ve had it there, and we’ve had low turnout. But I do think that part of it is because people couldn’t find it. And then we had it all the way at the fire station, we didn’t advertise it very well, and hardly anybody went to it.
“We have a large constituency, and yes, they haven’t voted in the past, but just because they haven’t doesn’t mean we take away their chance to vote.”
Coll said she is finding better ways to advertise the voting convenience centers, at which voters from any of the five wards may vote on Election Day. She said there are plans for better marketing with videos for Facebook and Twitter. Free transportation from Pecos Trails Transit will take place on Election Day, to and from the centers.
Last year, there were seven voting convenience centers. Councilor Juan Oropesa supported Foster’s idea for a more southern location.
“In city elections, one or two votes will make a big difference whether a councilor will be elected or not,” Oropesa said. “I think the more voting centers that we have, the more you give the people an opportunity to vote. My preference would be 10 or 11.”
Coll said that 2014 was the last time there was a voting center at the former airbase. In that election, turnout was low, Coll said.
Councilor Jason Perry said votes did not decrease with the fewer locations, but he was not opposed to adding the VCC to the base.
Councilor Tabitha Denny, who is the councilor of Ward 5, said there was less voting than the last election, that she thought the map was balanced. Denny supported a voting center at the base.
The voting center closest to the base was on Sunset Avenue in 2016.
Foster made the point that the voting convenience center at the base was convenient for multiple wards.
Foster made the motion to amend the resolution to add the sixth polling place in Ward 5, which will be at the Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell campus in building UNM.
Mayor Dennis Kintigh called for a vote and the motion was passed unanimously by the City Council.
City reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.