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Clerk hopes voter turnout improves for city elections

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There have been 11 days of early voting at City Hall since Feb. 4, but City Clerk Sharon Coll said that only 422 had cast their ballots by the closing of the poll site on Saturday evening.

The city also has mailed out 119 absentee ballots, which must be returned to City Hall by 5 p.m. Feb. 28 to be counted.

With 24,595 registered voters living within the city limits, according to information recently provided by the Chaves County Clerk’s Office, only 1.72% of eligible voters have been to the polls so far.

“Usually we would see 500 the first week,” Coll said. “I attribute that (the low numbers) to a couple of days when we had snow, and then (Friday) it was brutally cold.”

The city elections will determine not only five city councilors and a municipal judge for the next four years, but also whether property taxes within the city limits will be increased for many years to support a bond issue of up to $35 million for a new public safety complex.

Coll said the city will continue its efforts to encourage voting by making announcements on social media, radio programs, buses, the city website and in the news media — and by word-of-mouth encouragement.

“This is the time for people to let us know whether they like the people who are representing them or if they want a change,” she said.

She added that the city is once again offering free bus rides on election day, March 3, to and from a passenger’s nearest voting location.

The people vying for city councilor and judicial positions will have another opportunity to answer questions and make statements at the Municipal Elections Candidate Forum, organized by the Leadership Roswell Alumni Association with other co-sponsors.

The forum will occur 6 p.m., Feb. 25, in the Roswell Convention & Civic Center, 912 N. Main St.

Candidates will be asked questions by forum facilitators and will be given equal amounts of time to respond. A portion of the forum will focus on the bond question, according to Elaine Mayfield, a member of the forum committee.

Three of the five city councilor elections are contested. For Ward 1, incumbent Juan P. Oropesa is running against Cristina A. Arnold. Ward 2 has a three-way race between Bonnie S. Bitzer, Edward L. Heldenbrand and Jason Perry. In Ward 5, incumbent Barry Foster and challenger Oswaldo Vazquez Nava are vying for the seat. Two incumbents are running unopposed for other wards: Jeanine Corn Best (Ward 3) and Savino Sanchez Jr. (Ward 4).

Three people are seeking the municipal judge position: Timothy H. Davidson, Gary Galassini and incumbent Joseph Seskey.

The bond issue question on the ballot asks people to vote for or against general obligation bonds of up to $35 million to fund the purchase of land and the building and equipping of a public safety complex. According to information provided by the city, the complex would house a fire station, the fire administration center, a police station, a dispatch center, an emergency operations center, the municipal court and other possible public safety functions or units.

Early voting resumes today with an additional voting site and will continue until Feb. 29. People can vote either at City Hall, 425 N. Richardson Ave., or at the Chaves County Administrative Center, 1 St. Mary’s Place.

Early voting at City Hall will occur from 8 a.m to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays.

Early voting at the Chaves County Administrative Center will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29.

For questions about absentee voting, call 575-624-6700, 637-6263 or 637-6202.

To keep up with coverage of this and other 2020 elections of local and regional interest, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/elections/.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.