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Friday, November 28, 2014

Council nixes UNM poll spot

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By Britney King / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Members of Albuquerque’s City Council read through the meeting agenda Monday night. The council did not approve an amendment that would have installed a permanent voting location at UNM.

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Albuquerque’s City Council struck down an amendment that would have installed a permanent voting location at UNM at a meeting Monday night.

City Councilor Rey Garduño proposed the amendment after speaking to residents in the city’s District 6, which houses the University, who voiced support for an on-campus location.

According to the amendment, City Clerk Amy Bailey would have been directed by the City Council to “identify a suitable voting location on the University of New Mexico campus.”

Bailey voiced concern over the additional effort it would take to place a voting location at UNM before the Nov. 19 special election.

“I understand the argument,” she said. “If we were having the conversation nine months ago, I would have said, ‘No problem, plenty of time, we can figure it out.’ But at this point there are so many things out of our control in a limited time frame. It really concerns me, adding at the last minute.”

The council voted down the amendment after a debate over the practicality of adding the location to the campus.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the amendment failed with 5-3 vote. Democratic City Councilors Garduño, Ken Sanchez and Isaac Benton voted in favor of adding the location, while Republican councilors Dan Lewis, Roxanna Meyers, Janice Arnold-Jones, Trudy Jones and Don Harris voted against the amendment.

Bailey said among the factors she was concerned about were availability of space, communicating the location to voters and training people to work at the voting location. She said if the council instructed her to find a location, she would “put forth all her resources” to prepare the voting center, but would not be able to guarantee results.

“If you are telling me to do this, I am going to have to basically re-plan all of the work that we have, to dedicate all of my time, pretty much, to finding this place wherever it may be, which I will do if compelled,” she said.

Councilor Jones also expressed concern over the lateness of the change.

“To tie the clerk’s hands, by saying it must be on campus when we do not control that vicinity, it could put us in a real bind with our election that we’ve committed to have,” Jones said.

But Jones said a location close to the campus would be suitable for students at UNM.

“These are young people,” she said. “If they can get to campus, they can get within a block of the campus, because very few live on the campus.”

After his amendment was shot down, Garduño voiced his disappointment.

“We’re voting to essentially disenfranchise a society who wants to vote,” he said. “And that’s young people.”

Garduño said he would accept part of the blame for not identifying the lack of a voting location at UNM earlier. But he claimed he had addressed the situation in the past.

“This is nothing new. I’ve been talking about this for quite a while,” he said. “I’ll take half the blame, if that’s what people want for not having seen it at the very outset that it wasn’t on there.”

Councilor Janice Arnold-Jones suggested providing absentee ballots to students to make voting easier.

“Since there seems to be some overwhelming hurdles, there might be some extra thing that could be done at the Student Union Building to make absentee applications available and know that they are there, because that would solve much of this,” she said.

According to the city of Albuquerque website, applications for absentee ballots can be printed online to be sent into the Office of the City Clerk. Once obtained, absentee ballots can be either hand delivered to the office or mailed in for $1.12 by 7 p.m. on Nov. 19, according to the site.