UNM political science professor Lonna Atkeson was looking for district-by-district results from Tuesday's sugary-drink tax election in Santa Fe. It's the sort of wonky data that helps experts make sense of an election—how many people turned out to vote, where they voted, when they voted, that sort of thing.
Wednesday morning, news of the 58-42 percent drubbing the tax proposal took was nowhere to be found on the city's website.
"From a transparency perspective, that's offensive," Atkeson said as she clicked through links looking for the vote tally. "This shows you that the city's so embarrassed that they don't want to admit that this didn't succeed."
Mayor Javier Gonzales worked closely with a political action committee that spent more than $1.6 million advocating for the tax. He's hedged in interviews about whether he'll seek another term as mayor or some higher office.
All Tuesday, the city of Santa Fe featured a results link on the landing page for its website. It was impossible to miss for a community that turned out in record numbers for a special municipal election. As such, it was a service for the 38 percent of registered voters who cast a ballot, and for the thousands of people who were interested in how this progressive city would view a tax on soda that promoted health and paid for early childhood education.
SFR called, emailed and texted the city clerk and city spokesman to ask why results weren't available to the general public. Neither had an answer by mid-afternoon. The results should be easily available and are, in fact, public record. After the close of business Wednesday, the city clerk emailed unofficial results to SFR. By evening, a link to those same results was posted on the city web page dedicated to the election.
The election night effort by the city's tech staff, public relations guru and City Clerk Yolanda Vigil was ambitious. The plan was to have Vigil announce the results live to the city's cable access channel audience. As Vigil announced the results, city staff would fill in a series of pre-made spreadsheets that would break out the vote by not just each voting center and early and absentee voters, but also deconstruct the total for each of the city's four political districts. That telecast would be streamed live on YouTube simultaneously.
But after polls closed and the internet stream went live, resolution was terrible. City staff jumped on it and fixed the problem enough to make results not just useful, but legible for the online audience.
While it was clear around 9 pm that the proposal would be rejected by voters, the final results didn't come in until after 10:30 pm. There were just two reporters and a skeleton crew of city staff in council chambers when Vigil made the announcement. The YouTube video, which is nearly 3 hours long, is still posted on the site. Viewers can see the computer operator print the results at the end of the night, but it took until Wednesday evening for the public to be able to see just what those results were.
This story has been updated to include a city response.