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Dexter to hold hearing about elections

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Dexter voters will have a chance to weigh in on whether municipal elections should occur in November on odd-numbered years when many other non-partisan and local elections statewide will occur.

A public hearing to consider a resolution that would authorize the town to “opt in” to a “Regular Local Election” day is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the municipal offices on East Second Street.

“It would be a financial benefit to the town for us to do this because of the cost associated with running an election,” said Ruby Parks, town clerk. She added some voters also might consider it more convenient.

A choice of when to hold municipal elections now exists after the passage of the Local Election Act during the 2018 session of the New Mexico Legislature, according to information posted on the New Mexico Secretary of State website. The act took effect in July and allows municipalities to choose to be part of the regular local election day — when school districts, soil and water conservancy districts, special hospital and zoning districts and similar non-partisan elections are required to hold their elections. If local municipalities choose to participate in the Regular Local Election, the Chaves County Clerk conducts the elections and municipalities pay an annual assessment into an election fund. Terms of office for current elected officials would also have to be adjusted.

In the alternative, municipalities can continue to participate in Municipal Election Day, held in March in even-numbered years. If they make that choice, municipalities are responsible for conducting and paying for the elections.

Cindy Fuller, Chaves County Bureau of Elections chief, said that Dexter has 559 registered voters, but Parks said that typically only about 25 people vote in elections for mayor and town council members.

Lake Arthur and Hagerman, also small towns, have already “opted in,” said Fuller, while the city of Roswell, which has about 48,000 residents, has chosen to continue to hold its elections separately in March of even-numbered years.

After Tuesday’s public hearing, the Town Council is expected to vote on the matter and then forward its decision to the New Mexico Secretary of State.