A former member of the Oshkosh School Board once famously said in the wake of an overwhelming defeat of the referendum to build a new Oaklawn Elementary School on Ryf Road (far away from the neighborhood where most of the children who attended Oaklawn lived and in an area with few if any houses) that "Oshkosh obviously doesn't care about education." Despite last night's operational expenses referendum win, it appears that statement would still hold true. How else to explain why only about 20% of eligible voters in the District bothered to cast ballots on Tuesday. (Other than there was no evening early voting, no bus trips from churches to City Hall to cast absentee ballots and everyone wasn't sent an absentee voting application in the mail by both sides of the referendum debate.)
I've always thought that it would make for a more accurate presentation of election results if they were presented as a percentage of possible votes (rather than actual votes cast)--with the "non-turnout" listed as We Don't Care. That would put last night's Oshkosh School Referendum results as:
We Don't Care--80%
State Senator Mike Ellis floated the idea on WOSH yesterday that perhaps all such referenda should be required to be on the November Presidential/Gubernatorial ballot--so that more people would actually vote. While is sounds like a great idea (except to those who know smaller turnout favors school referendum votes) apathy would still win the race. Turnout for the 2012 Presidential election was 58.2% That means the Possible Voting Percentage breakdown would have been:
We Don't Care 42%
President Obama 30%
Even the huge turnout in the 2008 Election--with its long lines and polls kept open past the deadline to meet demand--had turnout of just 61.6%. Those numbers would be:
We Don't Care 38%
Barack Obama 32.5%
John McCain 29.5%
Even those heading to the polls don't seem to be that "tuned in" to what's going on. That point was driven home in the race for Outagamie County Board yesterday in Kaukauna, where at least 130 voters were given the wrong ballots for the district in which they lived. The mistake wasn't discovered until one of the candidates himself got his ballot at City Hall and noticed he wasn't on it! It's possible that the previous 130 citizens didn't even cast a vote in the County Board race and that is why nobody said "Hey, the guy I was planning to vote for isn't on here, what's going on?" But it's more likely that those 130 didn't even know what County Board district they live in--and had no idea before voting who the candidates should have been. Now we are likely looking at at least two lawsuits challenging the results of the two affected districts--and the possibility of special elections to determine the real winners (which will likely see 5% turnout--and an even bigger win for We Don't Care).
Perhaps I should change that label of "We Don't Care" for the non-voters to "We Have No Right To Complain"--since you had your chance to determine the path of local government and chose not to take it.