For the first time, due to a change in state law, true at-large voting replaced an unfair voting system in Truth or Consequences.
Prior to the law change, the city divided up the vote into blocks. Each open city commission position was a block. The position did not conform to a geographic area and the vote was not limited to people voting within a geographic area. It was neither district voting nor at-large voting. It allowed a block of voters to put in a slate of candidates.
This time each voter could choose up to three candidates for city commissioner, allowing for truly at-large voting. The top three winners were incumbent mayor pro tem Rolf Hechler, 449 votes; newcomer Ingo Hoeppner, 395 votes; incumbent mayor Amanda Forrister, 367 votes.
The number of registered voters in T or C was 4,083 and 1,046 voted. The voter turnout was 25.6 percent, which is about 14 percent below the national voter-turnout average of 40 percent in non-presidential election years.
Although the voters could have chosen three candidates for three open city commission positions, which would have been 3,138 votes cast by 1,046 voters, only 2,159 votes were cast.
Hechler received 43 percent of the 1,046 voters’ votes.
Hoeppner received nearly 38 percent of the 1,046 voters’ votes.
Forrister received 35 percent of the 1,046 voters’ votes.
Newcomer Chaz Glines received 351 or nearly 34 percent of the 1,046 voters’ votes, coming in a very near fourth place.
That is a very good showing by the newcomers, Hoeppner and Glines. Hoeppner received more votes than the incumbent mayor and Glines almost beat her out of the running, indicating the voters want change.
The low voter turnout and the voters not fully exercising their voting capacity indicate poor citizen interest and engagement, which should concern the city commission.
Part of the problem is accessibility. The city meetings are held at 9 a.m. and the elderly, non-mobile and nine-to-fiver could watch the meetings at home on YouTube. The city has not broadcast on YouTube for more than three years. City meetings are broadcast on KCHS radio station, owned and operated by previous-city commissioner Frances Luna, but its reach is not strong or far and it is impossible to tell who is speaking at times.
I have attended most city meetings for 4.5 years and I can attest to the lack of attendance at city meetings. Many people have stated that they cannot hear what the city commissioners are saying on the dais or what people are saying at the mic in front of the dais. The sound system inside the city commission chambers is bad and thus discourages attendance.
Most meetings only city staff or city-hired professionals attend, and those only if they are required to attend.
I hope Hoeppner will engage citizens by making a motion to start up the city’s YouTube broadcasts again and by making a motion to purchase a better audio/video system or service.