© 2024 KRWG
News that Matters.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Election Advisory Council: We Need A Voting Culture

Commentary:  If we want to increase civic participation, we need to build partnerships and have two-way conversations about why people don’t vote and encourage them to vote in every election.  Democracy is worth our effort, and a responsibility we all share.  

The Election Advisory Council (EAC) is implementing this new model of engaging people about the importance of voting in a democracy.  The EAC is a diverse, voluntary group of Doña Ana County residents partnering with the County Clerk’s Office.  We desire long-term change that is inclusive and connects residents to local government.  Our purpose is to build lasting and functional partnerships between residents of Doña Ana County and local government to increase civic participation.

We are an “idea incubator” in which we can think critically about the state of democracy in our county, and how to preserve democracy for generations.  We want our efforts to complement - not replace - other civic engagement efforts that are already happening in our county.

Our vision is to build a voting culture in Doña Ana County.  A culture where people value voting by actively voting in every election, they understand that civic engagement makes a difference, and realize how their vote contributes to the wellbeing of the community.  A voting culture creates long-term change. A voting culture is a permanent, sustainable path that increases voter participation in local elections and as a result, will engage more people in democracy.

We believe that this requires our intention and commitment to design a culture that fosters participation and engagement.  Partners who share our values of inclusive democracy are our greatest resource in this collective effort.  Together we can reach more people providing them with the necessary information to get out to vote and participate.

Our early effort is to inspire youth to participate. Our goal is to engage 100 percent of our graduating seniors to vote, and ultimately all our youth, and make voting a permanent part of their life. This effort is not about us! It is about building a better future for our youth with them, not for them.  And we dare to believe that people can be inspired to vote.

We want to reach our students as young as elementary school but recognizing that we have to start somewhere, we have started in our local high schools.  In the past two years, we have registered almost 1,000 students, teachers, and parents during our registration drive. We registered less than half of the graduating seniors.  It is a decent initial effort but more can be done.  

The most successful registration drives occur when we can directly engage seniors in the classroom by discussing the importance of voting and how it directly impacts their lives.  Also we are successful when we work with teachers to schedule classroom visits that fit their schedules best.

Many thanks to our partners including the teachers, administrators, and students at high schools who participated – Alma d’Arte, Anthony Charter School, Centennial, Chaparral, Early College High School, Gadsden, Hatch Valley, Las Cruces High School, Mayfield, Onate, and Rio Grande Preparatory.  We also want to give a special thanks to Kathe Kanim, EAC Member, Senator Bill Soules, and all the voter-registration agents who helped make this worthy effort a success. 

If we desire to shift the current culture of not voting to voting in every election, then it is critical that we are proactive and intentional. Engaging people and having real conversations will help us understand why people are no longer interested in participating in the very cornerstone of our country.  Lastly, we are committed to inviting them to be a part of the solution. This is how we actively build a voting culture together for our communities.  Shaping our future depends on all our votes.

Members of the Doña Ana County Clerk’s Office Election Advisory Council include Dolores Conner, Erika Graf-Webster, Gwen Hansen, Kim Sorensen, Terry Kebble, Steve Montañez, Kathe Kanim, Karena & Stewart Oberman, Steve McIlree, Kathy Wooten, Cynthia Madden, Johana Bencomo, Fred Martino, Ashley Beyer, Abraham Sanchez, Andy Perez, Rose Ann Vasquez, and Scott Krahling.  The EAC meets every 3rd Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m. at the Doña Ana County Government Center, 845 N. Motel Blvd, Las Cruces.  For more information, visit dacelections.com or call (575) 647-7428.