October 27, 2015

Voting convenience centers should be more convenient for those with limited means

Teresa Smith de Cherif is a doctor, member of the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District Board and former candidate for state representative.

As a physician working in deeply rural areas and small cities of New Mexico, where there are chronic shortages of doctors, I am well familiar with the socioeconomic constraints of my patients that impact their access to care.

Teresa Smith de Cherif

Teresa Smith de Cherif

Not infrequently, patients will explain that they missed a specialty consultation or appointment for a magnetic resonance imaging study because they didn’t have “gas for the ride.”

While working on temporary assignment this past week in the Clovis area, I toured the city with a family friend and saw that hard working folks there worry whether their children will graduate from high school, stress over the road conditions on the west side, and juggle paying for a prescription with needing to put gas in the truck.

In this setting, elections are important, providing to people the opportunity to weigh in on issues that affect them. I was dismayed to learn that Clovis will have only 5 voting convenience centers, when areas with smaller population (Grants, for example) have had six. On the south and west sides of Clovis, historically home to African-American and Hispanic families, there will be no voting convenience centers.

Researchers have shown that the greater the distance a polling place is from the homes of working folks with limited means, the greater the likelihood is that they will not vote. Voters should not be disenfranchised because they “don’t have money for the ride” clear across town to vote.  This week’s meeting of  the Curry County Commission is the last chance to address this issue

Clovis needs to approve of polling places for the west and south sides, or voting convenience centers will be no convenience at all.