Voter turnout dropping

Clovis Bureau of Elections Coordinator Stephanie Boydstun enters voter registration information into the state system Friday afternoon at the county clerk’s office. (Staff photo: Sharna Johnson)

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

Statistics show a significant decrease in voter turnout in the last municipal election, which has some candidates concerned.

The next municipal election is scheduled for March 7 with two contested city commissioner seats on the ballots. Len Vohs and Gloria Wicker are vying for an open seat in District 2 while William Ron Edwards and Jack Twite will compete for the single seat available in District 4.

Commissioner Isidro Garcia, who represents District 3, and Commissioner Juan Garza of District 1 are running unopposed.

The last day to register to vote in the election is Tuesday.
According to documents provided by City Clerk Leighann Melancon, voting numbers in Clovis municipal elections dropped from about 34 percent of the registered voters in 2000 and 2002 to 23 percent in 2004.

Commissioner hopeful Wicker said she is concerned citizens aren’t taking voting seriously. “As a good citizen,” Wicker said, “it is everyone’s responsibility to vote.” The lifetime Clovis resident said she believes a multitude of things play a part in keeping individuals from the polls or even from registering to vote.

According to Wicker, the common misconception that “my vote doesn’t count” is an excuse she has heard many times. “Elections have been won by one vote,” Wicker said, “so every vote certainly counts.”

The former city commissioner also believes people have gotten lazy.

“Voting is not a priority anymore,” Wicker said. “I think people just don’t care.”

Wicker said she believes the problem could be alleviated by schools offering more voter education as early as elementary school. She also thinks parents should set an example for their children by exercising their right to vote.

“I believe the right to vote is a privilege,” Wicker said. “Kids should learn that.”

Vohs, Wicker’s opponent, agreed the low voter numbers are worrisome. Vohs said he believes citizens have grown apathetic. “A lot of men and women fought and died for our freedoms,” Vohs said, “and voting is one of those freedoms.” Vohs said he hopes more Clovis residents will become civic minded and begin taking pride in their community. He believes this will cause more residents to cast a ballot.

Coni Jo Lyman, county voting administrator, said the numbers depend on the type of election. She said elections pertaining to publicized issues or highly contested positions often draw a large number of voters. “People show up to vote on what is important to them,” Lyman said.

According to Melancon, 16,402 Clovis residents are registered to vote in the upcoming election. “Since we have an increase in voters,” Melancon said, “I think it will be interesting to see if people show up to vote in the uncontested districts.”