Reflections on local elections

Boise isn’t the only city with a runoff election Dec. 3.  

Caldwell is planning one also–at least that was true Sunday as I wrote this.

Apparently, the council passed an ordinance requiring a “majority” vote back in 1989 and promptly forgot about it. For 30 years, candidates went on winning with pluralities.  

Then the notorious John McGee–who racked up criminal charges while representing District 10–got 39 percent of the votes.

And someone “discovered” the law.  

Probably no one except McGee is more surprised than second place candidate Evangeline Beechler

For now, the moral of the story seems to be that the consequences of acting above the law can go on and on–or not.  We’ll know more after Dec. 3

I’ve some other things on the recent election. 

For one, If Caldwell is an example, the Idaho legislature’s decision to change school board trustee elections from May to November did increase voter turnout.  

In May 2015 the number of voters who turned out to vote in Caldwell School District zones 2 and 4 were 214 and 145. In November this year, 801 and 411–or 3.75 and 2.75 as many. 

I see this as good–voters should vote. 

Yet, defeated West Ada trustee Mike Vuittonet felt that the additional voters were less informed than the traditional ones. Their decisions may simply based on whether a trustee raised taxes or not. (More discussion is at IdEdNews.org.)

Looking at election results, it seems that a lot of incumbents lost–20 out of 43.  

That would seem unusual since Incumbents have the advantage of name recognition, a track record, and fundraising experience.

But Idaho School Board executive Karen Echeverria doesn’t see the number as high; over 200 trustees did not have contested elections this year. (Again IdEdNews.org)

That could mean a lot of voters are satisfied with the current policy setters or that they aren’t informed.  

This leads to a second reflection–we need to develop more channels to get information out.   

I imagine there are towns where people not only know the candidates, they can tell you about their kids. But local elections are hardly “local” in cities with populations over 8,000 or 10,000. The county provides a sample ballot and not a word more. 

And local campaigns are low-budget ones where candidates often make do with social media and one flyer to hand out door-to-door.  

City council candidates may get forums, but most others do not.  

Local newspapers do a great service by publishing interviews or surveys, but not enough people are subscribers. 

The problem isn’t new, but I heard more complaints this year. Voters were agreeing with Mike Vuittonet–they didn’t feel informed.  

 We need some good minds  brainstorming on what can be done.   

And this election again proved that a few votes can make a big difference.    

That’s potentially true at every election, but it’s practically the norm for local elections. 

Nampa District’s supplemental levy lost by 10 votes–or 0.13 percent. Swan Valley District’s lost by 39 votes or 16 percent. And the two districts with successful levies–Lake Pend Oreille and Minidoka–squeaked through with 51 percent.

Wilder City Council candidate Guadalupe Garcia lost by one vote. (Didn’t Wilder have a tie with a coin-flip not too many years back?)  Just four years ago the Caldwell School District had all three trustee races decided by four votes. This year the two contested trustee seats were decided by 11 and 31 votes.

Don’t get irritated about last minute calls reminding you to vote.

They are confirming that your vote is important.      

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