Bernalillo County clerk looks to move north
Even at a young age, Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver had an interest in the voting process, often accompanying her parents to the polls during elections.
“I started doing voter registration work and education basically right out of high school,” Oliver said.
This interest-turned-passion has motivated her to run for New Mexico Secretary of State in this year’s elections. She faces Republican Dianna Duran in the Nov. 4 election.
Oliver says she is a long-time advocate for voter participation because her parents taught her that in order to be involved in democracy, one must vote.
“I’ve always been, for lack of a better word, a politics nerd,” Oliver said.
In 2007, Oliver was elected as the Bernalillo County Clerk, a job that deals heavily with the voting process; registering voters, managing ballots, and organizing poll workers.
In preparation for the 2008 elections, which had the largest voter turnout in New Mexico history, Oliver and her team made several changes in the voting process to make it more efficient.
These efficiencies include creating Voting Convenience Centers placed throughout a voter’s county. Voters can attend any center to cast a vote rather than having to go to an assigned location. Oliver says this method requires fewer locations and fewer poll workers.
In addition to these changes, Oliver expanded early voting by creating more polling places and extending voting hours, along with streamlining the absentee voting process. Since those changes in 2008, Oliver said she and her team have worked to continue improving each election.
“Incrementally with each election we continue to refine and make improvements and build upon the progress made in previous elections,” Oliver said.
Other improvements include well-trained and well-equipped poll officers and new voting machines to help administer the ballots.
“It’s more about the fine-tuning of our process,” she said.
Protecting the right to vote
A problem facing voters that Oliver wants to focus on if elected is what she says is “protecting the right to vote.”
“Making sure that voters have an unfettered access to our ballot box is extremely important to me and so that is what I am focused on this election cycle,” Oliver said.
Oliver said she’s concerned about reports of people throughout the country and in New Mexico being denied access to the ballot boxes because of laws that require strict picture identification and because of a shortage of accessible polling locations.
Alan Packman, Oliver’s campaign manager says as secretary of state, she would give more people the chance to be part of the voting process.
“Maggie’s vision for secretary of state that’s really working to expand the franchise to include more people in our democracy is very appealing,” Packman said.
In addition to ensuring every eligible citizen the right to vote, the secretary of state must be sure that elections run fairly. CNM political science professor Bob Anderson said this duty of secretary of state is essential to making sure elections are run fairly and openly and not biased to a single candidate or group.
“They’re sort of like the rules keeper, the person that keeps everyone honest and playing on the same set of rules in the election process,” Anderson said.
According to the reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, Oliver has raised $384,884 during this campaign season, with expenditures of $167,339. Some of Oliver’s biggest contributions come from the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), each of which gave $5,200.
Aside from fundraising efforts, Oliver has put in other efforts to keep this campaign going.
“The long hours, miles and miles of travel across our very big state and multi-tasking have eaten up every minute of my spare time for the last year and a half,” Oliver said.
“I have worked harder during the course of this campaign than I ever have before in my life.”
Oliver says one of her main reasons for running for secretary of state is to use her knowledge about being the county clerk for the largest county in New Mexico to help improve the voting process for smaller counties.
“They suffer from a lack of resources and they suffer from a lack of, often training, information, and tools and I really want to work with them to make sure they have what they need,” Oliver said.[/text_output][share title=”Share this Post” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” google_plus=”true” linkedin=”true” pinterest=”true”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][image type=”none” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”2970″][text_output]