Tuesday, July 8, 2008

County Clerk Pledges Free, Fair and Accurate Elections During Fall Vote!

Political analysts predict high voter turnout at the polls this fall, so we decided to talk with Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver about what she’s doing to prepare her office for the general election November 4th.

We caught up with her on the campaign trail. In this AUDIO INTERVIEW she said her job takes priority over her campaign.

Toulouse-Oliver was appointed by Bernalillo County Commissioners in 2007 to fill the unexpired term of Mary Herrera after she was elected New Mexico Secretary of State. Prior to her appointment, Toulouse Oliver worked for more than a decade as a campaign consultant and political activist.

“Democracy is the cornerstone of our society,” said Toulouse-Oliver. “I personally think I have not only the skills and background, but the personal commitment to ensuring free, fair and accurate elections.”

A Democrat, Toulouse-Oliver collected almost 70 percent of the primary vote and easily defeated Ambrose Chavez. She’ll face Republican Richard Lloyd Abraham in the general election.

“I’m raising money, and I’m getting out to events, and talking to people about what I want to do with the office,” said Toulouse-Oliver as she raised money at a small house party/fundraiser.

The clerk says she has three goals for Election 08

  1. Ensure efficient elections with technology and revamped phone systems.
  2. Recruit, and train 2,300 paid poll workers.
  3. Improve voter education by letting them know in advance where they vote.

Toulouse-Oliver says she has a good relationship with the Secretary of State and has renewed confidence in electronic voting machines after reviewing results from a Pew Center funded “Making Voting Work” audit.

The clerk says recommendations from the study, with UNM, have been reviewed and the actual audit results and analysis will be made public in a few weeks.

“According to state law a machine's accuracy needs to be found with 1.5 percentage points, so if the machine count to hand count is within that margin it’s considered to be an accurate machine,” Toulouse said. “If it’s not some sort of corrective action has to be taken.”

The clerk tells us she understands the audit’s results show all the results are within that margin of error.

Some 25 percent of the 2006 votes cast in two statewide offices, Governor and State Land Commission, were audited. Only 2 percent of the vote will have to be audited after the 2008 election.

“We learned a lot and shared the results with the Secretary of State.”

The clerk will be busy because in the first six months of 2008 there have been a little more 52,000 new voter registration filed statewide. Democrats lead with 27,207 registrations, while 12,926 registered as Republicans and 11,805 registered independent of any political party. Several hundred more registered as members of other political parties.

“I’m going to be out this summer visiting neighborhood associations, and civic organization meetings, all over the place trying to recruit poll workers,” said Toulouse-Oliver. “I’m also meeting with a variety of stakeholder groups to ensure they are getting their people and parties, union organizations, and other activist groups who care about elections and the outcomes of elections.”

Toulouse-Oliver says if you don’t mind working a long shift you should consider volunteering. Election poll workers are compensated for their time, but need to be patient working with the public. More information about being a poll worker is posted on the Bernalillo County Clerk's website here.

The clerk says she’ll take advantage of a new state law and begin counting absentee vote five days before the actual election

“Our ability to do that will improve our ability to get the results up swiftly,” said Toulouse-Oliver.

In past elections counting provisional and absentee ballots led to long delays in posting election results.

We’re confident with her leadership skills, voter education program, and technical planning the general election should go without a hitch. At least we can hope for a miracle.

Photo Credit: MG Bralley

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