Friday I attended an award ceremony in the Rotunda of the Roundhouse in Santa Fe for Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver and her Deputy Robert Adams. The award was the “2010 Distinguished Service Award” from Verified Voting NM and United Voters of NM. The award was for their excellent work as local election officials. Specifically, the award givers noted that:
–They pioneered in the intensified testing of procedures for hand counting ballots and auditing results, as newly mandated by state law. Based on their experience, Maggie sent a personal letter to her county clerk colleagues across the state, suggesting step-by-step guidelines for carrying out the logistics of that post-election audit.
–They distributed a public flyer in 4/09 urging voters to tell what they thought of how the county handled the 11/08 general election, and held a public forum to gather citizen input on their experiences, concerns and suggestions. They also made clear their office is ready to meet with concerned citizens on an appointment basis.
–They issued on their website and by e-mail a 3-page fact-packed info memo in advance of the 2010 Primary Election on the Internet, with clear instructions to citizens on how to check registration and voting site, where and how to early vote, how to download absentee ballot applications and check on their status, and how to phone and e-mail the clerk office. The message included links to sample ballots for each polling location, and how to phone and e-mail the clerk office, arrange challengers and watchers and how to apply for poll worker jobs. They did this also for the 2008 Primary.
— They doubled the size and increased the number of early voting sites to reduce long lines, and added computers and regional supervisors at each so that problems can be addressed on site. They recruited two extra poll workers for every site to help with everything from questions to crowd control. They expanded office phone capacity so it can handle 182 calls at a time, 15,000 in an hour.
–They examined historical and projected turnout numbers and ordered enough ballots to accommodate a 30% turn out at early voting sites within a 3-mile radius of a voter’s precinct and a 10% turnout for those further away – this to reduce cost of ballots ordered but unused.
–They implemented a pilot program to see whether split shifts might work for poll workers.
–They secured a $20,000 grant from the Federal Election Commission to involve high school students in a mock election, simulating the upcoming general election, and aimed at raising student consciousness of the importance of voting.
Mike, Thad and I have had the pleasure of working with Maggie, Robert and their staff and they are an incredible team! They are innovative, thoughtful, smart, open, and hardworking. This is well deserved.