Election generates discussion, early votes

By Thomas Garcia: PNT staff writer

The fact that the nation will either elect the first black president or first woman vice president makes today’s presidential election historic.

However, only time will determine if the election will be pivotal, according to Donald Elder, professor of history at Eastern New Mexico University.

Elder said the policies and issues addressed and passed by the next administration will decide the importance of the election.

He said other elections he considers pivotal include the 1932 election when Franklin D. Roosevelt basically saved the nation from the Great Depression and 1980 when Ronald Reagan changed the nation’s outlook on liberals, making the government the nation’s problem.

The race between black Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Republican John McCain and running mate Sarah Palin and issues in the election have been the topic of student discussions, Elder said.

“There is a buzz about the campus, unlike anything I have seen in my 34 years of teaching,” said Elder, who believes the election could easily break the record of the largest turnout of young voters in history.

Roosevelt County Clerk Janet Collins said 30 percent of the registered voters in the county participated in early voting, which ended Saturday.

“When compared to the 2004 election, we have had 400 more early and absentee voters,” Collins said.

With such a critical election at hand, Roosevelt County election officials have made preparations to ensure an orderly election day.

The clerk’s office has prepared for just about every possible situation, Collins said.

There are 21 precincts in Roosevelt County, and at least four people will be working at each location, Collins said.

At each of the precincts, there will be a bilingual worker or one will be available for translation at the clerk’s office.

The staff and poll workers also have trained for many situations that could occur during Election Day.

In the event of a power outage or voting machine malfunction, ballots can be placed in a secured and locked box on the machine and the ballots will be hand-tallied later, Collins said.

“That is the best thing about the paper ballots. If there is a problem with the machine, they can be hand counted and everyone’s vote still counts,” Collins said.

The precincts will open for voting at 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.