There’s a better way


Democracy should mean all of us — and voting is a way to ensure that all voices are heard.

In 2019, our state implemented a front-end automatic voter registration (AVR) system — a necessary step in New Mexico’s effort to modernize our elections, but not sufficient to make sure they truly help represent the diverse electorate we have in our state. New Mexico must do more to protect and encourage broad participation in our elections.

Front-end AVR allows all eligible voters who interact with a government agency — like the MVD — the option to register to vote. Unfortunately, because of time constraints and confusing prompts during their transactions, a significant number of eligible voters decline to register to vote or update their voter information with this system.

If our state is serious about representation of communities of color and young people in our elections, there’s a better way to do it, and that’s back-end AVR.

Under back-end AVR, eligible voters are automatically registered to vote when visiting the MVD, skipping time-consuming questions and saving staff from having to do the extra work. Customer information is automatically transferred to the state’s election agency, where a series of checks are completed to make sure the person is eligible to vote.

For those who are already registered, the system checks to see if their existing registration needs to be updated because of a name or address change.

Back-end AVR is a powerful upgrade to our voter registration system that could make our democracy inclusive and accessible for all.

James Ruff

Los Lunas

Senator should apologize


I’m writing on behalf of myself and several of my friends and family living in Valencia County.

We are distressed and disgusted by Sen. Greg Baca’s overtly-racist line of questioning of a cabinet nominee for Veterans Affairs, Ms. Sonya Smith, on Feb. 12. Ms. Smith is a veteran of Desert Storm and Desert Shield, as well as a medical professional who has lived in New Mexico for more than seven years. She happens to be a Black woman.

Sen. Baca’s dogged questioning of her abilities based on his notion that her culture might get in the way of her doing a good job were shocking and way out of line. It’s embarrassing that he was so unprepared and treated Ms. Smith this way!

It would be appropriate for him to apologize to her and to take some type of diversity training. We deserve better representation than his parochial mind-set. Valencia County is not a backward county, but you wouldn’t know it by Greg Baca’s words. He embarrassed himself and us all with his cavalier attitude and lack of awareness of New Mexico values and diversity.

Michelle Tafoya

Los Lunas

(Editor’s Note: Sonya L. Smith was unanimously confirmed by the New Mexico Senate as secretary of the New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services. The vote was 38-0, officially naming her as the fifth DVS secretary— and first African-American to serve as head of the agency. She had been serving on an interim basis since her nomination for the position by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

“I stand here in strong support of Secretary Sonya Smith,” said Sen. and U.S. Navy veteran Greg Baca (R-Belen). “She has a kindness and the spirit to lead the department of veterans services. I’m happy to know that they will be under her guidance, and I look forward to working with her to serve our state’s veterans.”)

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