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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Okay, We Passed Simple Majority But There's One Catch

So I'm reading the Times online and see this story about the first levy elections after the Simple Majority passed. This will be happening in Snohomish county (and probably some others) in Feb. In a way, it's not a real first test because it will also occur the same time as the presidential primary which is likely to have high voter participation. Here's an interesting thing to keep in mind about the changeover (from the Times' article):

"Snohomish County adopted all-mail voting in January 2006, but it didn't take effect until the September primary, making the seven districts the first to run finance measures under the all-mail vote.

When Thurston County changed to all-mail voting in 1993, one of the first casualties was school-finance measures, said Auditor Kim Wyman. Instead of running one campaign, which often consisted of mailings and phone calls to supporters on the eve of the election, Wyman said districts had to shift to running campaigns timed to the mailing of absentee ballots and continuing through the election date."

What was the outcome?

"In 1994, [North] Thurston schools had a double levy failure for the first time. A lot of people pointed fingers at us," because of the change to all-mail voting, Wyman said,

Once school supporters adjusted their campaign strategies, she said, they successfully passed finance measures, though by narrower margins. The upside for the county, she said, was that voter participation nearly tripled, from about 13 percent to 42 percent in general elections."

So voter participation tripled (which is good) but the measures passed by narrower margins (not so good).

Last, there was this sentence that caught my eye and caused me to call the Secretary of State about it:

"Construction-bond measures still require 60 percent approval."

This is important because SPS's capital measure was, this time out, a bond measure. We normally have it as a levy. The woman at the Secretary of State's office said yes, a capital bond measure will still require a 60% supermajority while a capital levy will require a simple majority. She said most capital measures are bonds.

So it will all depend on what the district does next time out. They did a bond this time to get the money upfront and try to speed up construction schedules before construction costs go up but will they take the chance again next time if it will require a 60% supermajority?

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