Mail-in voting is already underway for the Aug. 24 special election in Edgewood, with a single question: Are voters in favor of changing from the current mayor-council format of town government to the commission-manager format?
Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar said Aug. 13 that as of that morning, 1,053 ballots had been received, with 63 unsigned or rejected, and 112 returned as undeliverable.
Salazar’s office sent out just over 3,600 ballots initially, meaning around a 30 percent participation rate so far, with 10 days remaining to get ballots back to the County Clerk.
Only those living within Edgewood’s municipal boundaries are eligible to cast a vote in the special election, which is all mail-in. Votes may also be returned in person to the County Clerk’s office in Santa Fe.
Salazar set up a satellite office at the Edgewood town hall last week, to issue provisional ballots for voters who didn’t get theirs, or who received a damaged ballot. At first, that included a locked receptacle where people could deliver their ballot without going to Santa Fe.
That was removed, Salazar said, adding that she can only accept those ballots in Santa Fe, after receiving calls from members of CORE (Citizens for an Open and Responsible Edgewood) Jerry Powers and Tom McGill.
Describing the Aug. 24 special election as the “most contentious I’ve seen,” Salazar said her office represents all voters, and that her aim is to conduct a fair election for the citizens of Edgewood. “The election isn’t being held by the town, and it isn’t being held by CORE—it’s being conducted by my office for the voters of Edgewood,” she said.
So What’s The Difference?
Under the mayor-council format for town government, used by the nearby communities of Moriarty, Tijeras, Estancia, Willard and Mountainair, voters elect a mayor, and town councilors.
The mayor appoints certain jobs, like police chief, town clerk, or librarian, which are then ratified by the council.
Under the commission-manager format, in use by Bernalillo, Torrance and Santa Fe counties, districted commissioners are elected.
Under mayor-council, municipalities with a population under 10,000 are not districted, but elected at large. That means that if there are two open seats and five candidates, the two candidates with the highest numbers of votes are seated. Once there are more than 10,000 people, Edgewood would have to be districted.
Under the commission-manager format, the commission hires a manager, who does hiring and firing of employees, and who has broad authority to act on behalf of the governing body.
What Would Change?
Under the current mayor-council format, only councilors have the power to make motions for action, and to vote on those motions, except in the event of the tie. According to state statute’s annotations, “A mayor always has the right to break a tie vote even when a supermajority vote is required.”
Under a commission-manager format, all commissioners can make motions and vote on any motion.
Under a commission-manager format, according to state statute, “the governing body … shall district the municipality into five commissioner districts” that are “compact in area and equal in population, as nearly as possible.”
Under the commission-manager format, the commission “shall appoint a manager.” That manager “shall be the chief administrative officer,” state statute says. “The manager shall be appointed solely on the basis of administrative qualifications and his selection shall not be limited by reason of former residence.” The manager’s salary is set by the commission, and the manager has “a seat, but no vote, at every meeting of the commission.”
Under mayor-council, the town can hire a manager, and the manager’s salary is ultimately approved by the town council, while the hire would be presented by the mayor. The council and mayor hire department heads in Edgewood currently. Under the commission-manager format, the town manager would hire and manage department heads.
Under commission-manager, “any elective executive or commissioner is subject to a recall election for malfeasance in office, misfeasance in office or a violation of oath of office…” State statute also requires a determination by district court “whether probable cause for recall exists.” If the court “determines probable cause for recall exists, the recall petition may be circulated.”
Under commission-manager, qualified electors can bring a referendum as a special election with 20 percent of voters. In Edgewood currently, that’s around 730 signatures. Such a referendum would be a special election, according to state statute.
Associated costs would be borne by the town, as with this special election. The town clerk’s current estimate is $50,000 for the Aug. 24 special election.
What would stay the same?
Under both formats, the positions of town clerk and treasurer are required by state statute. The offices of clerk and treasurer may be combined, and one person appointed to perform both functions, as is currently the case in Edgewood.
Under both formats a mayor is elected; under the commission-manager format, the commission elects the mayor from its own number, while under the mayor-council format voters elect the mayor.
The mail-in vote is ongoing. To vote, follow the instructions on the ballot sent to registered voters within the town’s municipal limits.
Sign the outer envelope, and place the marked ballot into its envelope and seal it before placing it in the outer envelope and mailing it to the County Clerk. Postage is paid on the envelope.
Ballots must be received by the County Clerk either by mail, or in person at 100 Catron Street in Santa Fe, by 7 p.m. on Aug. 24 to be counted. For more information, contact the County Clerk’s office at 505-986-6280.