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Clerk candidates respond to voters

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By Arin McKenna

 Voters posed questions to Republican Naomi Maestas and Democrat Amy Woods, the two candidates for Los Alamos County Clerk, at the Oct. 13 League of Women Voters of Los Alamos candidate forum.

One person asked what distinguished the county clerk’s role from that of the staff in the clerk’s office.

“As somebody who has a very limited experience in the clerk’s office, I do know that the probate judge is supported by us in terms of recordkeeping and by customer service,” Woods responded. “And to that extent, the clerk is responsible for all of the records, not just the probate judge but the marriage licenses and the recording of deeds and the transfers.”

Maestas, who serves as senior deputy clerk in that office, noted that the clerk’s involvement is likely to change when the position becomes full time in January. She called the current part-time position “more of a figurehead” and more involved with management duties such as oversight and the budget. She expected the position to become more hands on in January. 

“Right now, there are days when we work 16 hours a day. We work weekends, we work nights. I would expect that the clerk would do the same thing, would be in the trenches with staff.” Maestas said.

She noted that due to time constraints, the three clerks she has worked with have not been involved with the recording or minute-taking process, attending county council meetings or with probate.

“We as staff already do that. I do that, and I will continue to do that as clerk,” Maestas said. 

Two questions were directed toward facilitating voting. One citizen asked the candidates for ideas on how to make voting easier for millenials.

Maestas noted that online registration, which was instituted in January, has greatly facilitated the process. She sees voter registration as the main tool for increasing voter participation, and noted that voter registration was up by 1,000 since the primaries. 

“So we’re getting there, but we cannot compromise the integrity of the ballot itself,” Maestas said.

Although she expressed a willingness to explore other options, Maestas raised issues about online voting.

“When you open up voting online, you’re susceptible to cybersecurity issues,” Maestas said. “Right now, our machines are not in any way hooked up to the internet or online in any way. That way there’s no compromising of the ballot in any way.”

Woods asked, “Has anyone ever met a millennial who wasn’t carrying around an iPhone?” and suggested a system that utilized a one-use code (similar to that used for resetting passwords) that would allow people to vote on their Smart Phones. 

“I don’t disagree that security issues are important, and I know that there cyber attacks all over, but you can prevent a lot of that and you can get the millenials and the people who are married to their phones into the voting process by letting them use the tools they currently have,” Woods said.

Another voter asked if the candidates would apply pressure on the legislature to get same-day voter registration. 

 “I think everybody should have the right to vote. I don’t think we should ever, ever infringe on that. I think if we can get a good model to go after, why not?” Maestas said. 

”I think we would have to look into the matter, make sure we’re using the safest, the best thing for the voter. At the end of the day, that’s what we want to protect, the voter’s rights, the voter’s privacy of their ballot, the integrity of the ballot. That’s important to us.”

“I think that same day voting is a really good idea, but I do think it’s really crucial that we’re careful to not register people to vote who aren’t actually eligible,” Woods responded. “We have to watch the security, the cybersecurity, and make sure all those elements are in place.”

In person early voting opened Saturday. Hours are 8 a.m.–6 p.m. Monday–Saturday in council chambers at the municipal building and at the multipurpose room at the White Rock Library. Early voting ends Nov. 5.

The general election is Nov. 8.