School Elections Report – Low Turnout, We lose
The results are in and basic elections 101 comes into play. When mainstream voters stay home in Livingston County, we as taxpayers lose. That’s exactly what happened. The only one of ours who won was Greg Rassel in Brighton. Thanks to all the candidates for doing a tough and thankless job. Congratulations to the winners and to the challengers for making the winners run a tough race.
Greg Rassel – 1100 (win)
Beth Minert – 1068 (win)
Winnie Garrett – 808
Patty Bradley – 647
Irene Besancon – 628
Jared Geist – 504
Keith Van Hentenryck – 337
Wesley Armbruster – 220 (Wes dropped out and did not run a campaign, but his name was on the ballot anyway)
Write in - 6
Mike Brown – 172 (win)
Sheila Burkhart – 167 (win)
Elsie McPherson-Brown – 1114 (win)
Dennis Tierney – 1011
Write in – 11
Ed Literski – 2162 (win)
Jeannine Pratt – 1788 (win)
Bill Harvey – 1667
Doug More – 1657
Dan Fondriest – 1116
Write in (Phil Nickels) – 191
Anne Colone – 1059
Michelle Crampo – 870
Jason Reifschneider – 464
Write in – 137
Write in – 105 (Kevin MacRitchie) (Win)
The establishment in schools has a built in advantage. There are the employees of the school, the PTO groups, and some of the town elite involved. They generally think on similar lines in school related election, although there are exceptions. They ALWAYS vote in school elections, and have their best advantage when there is turnout like we had in these elections – around 10% or less overall, with a higher turnout in places like the Cities of Howell and Brighton, along with Putnam Township which are more liberal than the rest of the county. Those people turned out to vote. They earned their wins.
I’m not going to precinct crunch due to time constraints, except that most were as expected. (Brighton 1-2 more liberal, Howell City liberal, townships more conservative)
The other question remains. We get around 58% turnout in gubernatorial elections and got over 75% turnout in presidential elections. We got 15-23% turnout in school elections last year, and 25-30% turnout two years ago with the millage on the ballot? What happened to revert back to the 3-10% old days? Fowlerville is excused. They had an uncontested election once again.
I can’t blame the local paper, at least in Howell’s case. Howell had a ton of publicity. Brighton Hartland, and Pinckney had little publicity. Even with all of Howell’s publicity, there was still a very low turnout of 10-15%, with 6% in Cohoctah. There was a 20%+ turnout last year, and a 25%+ turnout in 2005. That’s still low compared to a primary or general election, but high for a school election.
These are the reasons I think most stay home:
1. May elections. People vote in August (sometimes) and November. Those are the big elections. How many people get excited about a school election? Only political junkies and those directly effected (and not even all of them).
2. No reason to vote. Many view that it doesn’t affect them unless there’s a tax measure on the ballot. The reason the Concerned Taxpayers Group stays active is so that they prevent tax measurers from being proposed in the future due to fiscal responsibility.
3. In Howell, social views dominated, not fiscal. The fiscal errors that are going on with the powers that be are overshadowed by the Love group. What dominated was the books issue and the personalities related to the Love group. The moderates and center-right voters in the district let everyone know what they thought about it. They stayed home and did not vote. It was viewed as the “book burners” vs the “social engineers on the left” with no alternative choices. Last year with “high” turnout (for a school board race) Wendy Day won in 2002 with 2506 votes with second place Westmoreland winning with 2147 votes. Last place non write in – 1658. This year, the WINNER got about 2150 with 2nd place getting slightly under 1800. The last place non write in – about 1100. People stayed home.
Advice to both social sides from someone more socially libertarian (NOT to be confused with a social liberal). Don’t overreach. The majority of people did not want a rainbow flag flying in the hallway, nor censorship of songs as religious content, or people messing with the boy scouts. Those were overreaches. These issues are what gave the LOVE group a following in the first place. Love was fighting the social engineering. The books were a different matter. While there is an argument over whether any, some, or all of the books were appropriate in a school setting (Personally, I want in the middle on that), going to the prosecutor, attorney general, and US attorney backfired. Even more so when it was a public spectacle. That was a classic overreach. If LOVE did not go to the government and had this settled over elections, maybe another 75 votes would have switched, or another 100-150 voters showed up. We don’t know. With the overreaches, you have two results, angry public sending you home (Democrats in 1994, Republicans in 2006), or a discouraged public saying “the hell with this one-upsmanship contest, I’m staying home since none of the candidates are worth my support.” Turnout was down 10% from last year with this.
Advice to the Taxpayers Group. I think it’s time for us to expand into more races on the county level. We should be more than just involved in school related elections. We may have been born from the 2005 millage, but there’s no reason we should not be active in any county level race, and maybe even the state rep/state senate races with two open seats in 08. The 05 millage is old news now, and unfortunately, most voters have short memories. The drop in turnout speaks to that.
Lastly, the big winners here – The Argus. I believe all of the Argus backed candidates won. Minert and Rassel in Brighton. Pratt and Literski in Howell. The incumbents elsewhere. I think their endorsement is going to be more valuable for these races than it traditionally has been in partisan elections (2002 and 2004).