And they’re off and running. No, not the Preakness (last Saturday) or the upcoming Indy 500. I’m talking about the Socorro Mayoral election. The election isn’t until November and the filing date is in August but one candidate has already thrown his hat in the ring.

Rumor has it that there will be lots of candidates. In fact, it seems like just about everyone and his cousin will be running. I know of one person who will not be in the race for mayor or city council either. That is me. No way. First, I couldn’t pass the public litmus test. Another reason is I don’t want to be blamed for everything that goes wrong. As in, I heard people were blaming current mayor Ravi Bhasker for the recent lack of cell phone service and internet.

Up until just a few years ago, city elections were held early in March and new members sworn in later in the month. That was when the city was in charge of their own elections. But the county clerk has the machines and the expertise and I guess it’s cheaper to have them do it. Perhaps fewer questions as well.

But in any case, today’s elections aren’t like those a few decades ago. I remember reading through an old Defensor Chieftain. I believe it was after a county election. The article spelled out all the folks who gotten hired after the new board was seated.

No such thing as job security or personnel policy. It was all about who got voted into office. And, of course, those were the days when money greased the palms of the voters. One of the wonderful characters of Socorro was a woman named Patty Woods who used to regale us (the Chieftain staff) with stories of past elections and various shenanigans.

I’ve heard it said that people would say “might as well accept the money from a candidate because that’s the only thing you’ll get from them.”

My previous boss, Keith Green, told of working at the Taos News and getting to see the airplane land bringing in the election money. Keith, by the way, played the part of the Sheriff in “Easy Rider,” a fact that had us staffers rewatching that classic movie.

Elections are exciting for those in the news biz. But they don’t seem as exciting now days as they used to before computers and the internet. Back in the day, election returns were posted on a huge blackboard up in the main courthouse courtroom. The place would be jammed full of people and the clerks would come up with new precinct returns, writing them on the board. Outlining precincts, such as Alamo and Claunch would take hours to arrive and sometimes arrived without the proper paperwork or the keys or some other calamity.

I remember when computers were new and Keith Green took his up to the courtroom and sat in the back and produced a chart with the projected winners. I had to admit it was professional looking but at the time, it seemed slow and cumbersome.

Even voting itself has changed and seems… hum, what? Easier, sure; perhaps no less exciting. But some of the mystery, the awe and the reverence are gone now. First, there’s all sorts of times and days to go vote. Hardly anyone, it seems, votes on election day itself any more.

Gone are the long lines, the seeing all those folks one hardly saw except on election day. Gone too is the satisfaction of pulling that handle to close the curtain of the voting machine; pulling each lever down under the correct name, or pulling the all Democrat or all Republican lever.

Gone as well are the pencils to write in any name one wanted for any office. And then double checking to make sure it’s all as one wants it to be. And then the magic of opening the curtain and knowing your vote is cast and no one can say for certain how you voted unless you care to say.

But hanging chads changed all that. And so now, we voters are forced to sit in little cubicles and fill in circles next to our preferred candidate. And rather than the excitement of that courtroom, we can sit at home and go online to see statewide and national voting returns.

That’s assuming there’s internet.

Gwen Roath, Guest Columnist