JAL — Election Day for local leaders — mayor, city councilors and municipal judge — changed this week for voters in Jal.
Based on requirements of the New Mexico Local Election Act of 2018, municipalities were allowed to “opt in” or “opt out” of regular local elections held in November of odd-numbered years. Jal had opted out, holding its regular election in March this year.
In Lea County, only Tatum and Eunice had opted in, allowing the Secretary of State’s Office and county clerk to handle their municipal election details and costs.
Hobbs and Lovington took no action after the Local Election Act became law, determining to “opt-out.”
State Sen. Daniel A. Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, the sponsor of the election bill that became law in 2018, said even if Hobbs wanted to opt-in, changes would have to be made, including the city’s requirement for photo identification at the polls.
Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb said the home-ruled city had no desire to opt in.
After one experience in March, when local elections were a virtual tradition in even-numbered years, the Jal City Council decided the election of city officials now will take place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November in odd-numbered years, as arranged in the Local Election Act.
“Due to the fact that it cost us about $6,000 to run it on our own, and it was extremely hard to do,” said City Manager Matt White, “the city council elected to join the rest of the communities and opt in.
“What we found out was if you do it on your own, that’s no kidding, you do it on your own. You’ve got to set the ballots up and get the voting machines,” White said. “The county worked with us, but a lot of work went into it. It was just a tremendous amount of work for my clerk to try to do. We found it was just easier to let the county do it.”
The Act requires local taxing entities which opt in to the regular local election in November of odd-numbered years to pay $250 per year to the Secretary of State for every million in their budget. A 2018 calculation determined Jal’s contribution will be $1,000 per year, or $2,000 per election.
Other local government taxing entities — school districts, community colleges, soil and water conservation districts, water and sanitation districts and hospital districts — were given no choice. Their elections are held in November of odd-numbered years at the same time opt-in municipality elections are held.
Jal City Clerk Molly Sanchez said seats currently held by councilors Lorenzo Chacon, Jimmie Ellison and Stacy Ward are affected, as well as Mayor Stephen Aldridge and Municipal Judge Alan Speed.
“The next election will be in November 2021 and they’ll be sworn in in January (of 2022),” White said.
With terms beginning in January instead of March, the current term of each elected official involved will be cut by about two months, White noted.