Elections in New Mexico have been run with more security and fewer complications in recent years, according to UNM Political Science Professor Lonna Atkeson, as published in her recent report titled, "2010 New Mexico Election Administration Report." The report is the third in a series starting with the 2006 election cycle.

Atkeson, who is also a Regents Lecturer and director of the Center for Democracy, said, "The 2010 New Mexico Election Administration Report represents a systematic examination of New Mexico's November 2010 General. Results from the study provide important feedback to on-going efforts at election reform in New Mexico."

The most recent report was supported by the Bernalillo County Clerk, the University of New Mexico's Center for Democracy, the College of Arts and Sciences and the New Mexico Secretary of State. Project partners include a number of county clerks including those in Bernalillo, San Juan, Doña Ana, Santa Fe, Lincoln and Curry counties.

"My office is proud to once again support this important work, which provides crucial data to my staff and me. This report will help inform important improvements for our election systems, training and preparations for the upcoming presidential election," said Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Bernalillo County Clerk. "We value our partnership with Professor Atkeson and UNM and look forward to putting this report's recommendations into action."

Many involved in the 2010 research project had experience studying other elections across the United States, including Cal Tech Professor R. Michael Alvarez. Election monitoring team members for Election Day were selected from two of political science's research design courses, the graduate level Introduction to Methods of Political Science Research and the undergraduate Research Methods class. The graduate students and faculty were paired with undergraduate students into 16 election-monitoring teams.

Atkeson and her lead research assistant, Alex Adams, directed the monitoring teams who visited multiple Bernalillo County voting locations and noted any problems the polling workers might have had setting up the location, any concerns of voters or workers during the day of the election and the procedures used to end voting and properly close down the voting location.

The report addresses many different voting issues such as varying the number of poll workers at each location to providing additional staff at heavily trafficked voting locations, and the importance of poll worker training.

One important improvement Atkeson and her teams noted in the 2010 election was the use of "ballots on demand," which Atkeson recommended in her 2008 report.

"In 2008, each early voting location had to have printed versions of all ballot styles on hand – this was insecure, procedurally complex and difficult to handle logistically. Ballot on demand for early voting is more secure, less complex, easier procedurally, more environmentally friendly, more cost-effective and can be helpful when last-minute changes to ballots are necessary," Atkeson said in the report.

Besides election monitoring the report also examines the attitudes and behaviors of poll workers and voters. For example, both voters and poll workers were asked about their attitudes toward vote centers. Vote centers are a polling place where any registered voter in the county may vote. The data show that both groups are largely ambivalent toward the introduction of vote centers in New Mexico and that after learning about both their positives and negatives, on average, increased their support for them.

This research project originally started in 2006 as three independent projects, but has become an important on-going tool to analyze the New Mexico election landscape. Since then an expanded project received funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts Center for the States in 2008, and from Bernalillo County Clerk's office in 2010. This continuation of research has allowed Atkeson and her researchers to provide systematic information about elections, what voters think about elections and how poll workers operate across the variety of counties in New Mexico.

"Thanks to feedback from regular voters, poll workers and local election administrators, this research has been very productive and helpful to New Mexico's continued election reforms," Atkeson said.

Media Contact: Benson Hendrix (505) 277-1816. e-Mail:bhendrix@unm.edu