On Why Voting in Local Elections Really Matters More Than Presidential Elections

Last week the people of the City of Allen, the town in which I live, passed a property tax hike. This now makes the residents of our fair city among the highest taxed in the State of Texas.

How can this be? With all the talk in the media about tax rate hikes and the flaming rhetoric that comes from Tea Partiers and Conservatives, how could one of the most “Red” municipalities in the most “Red” state of the union vote to raise their own taxes?

Two main reasons.

First, this tax was specifically to fund education and the “it’s for the children” mantra makes even the staunchest Tea Partier turn mauve if not a pale blue.

Second, plain and simple it was voter apathy. This is technically known as the principle-agent problem. As you can see from the table below, less than 10 percent of registered voters turned out despite almost two weeks of early voting opportunity including a Saturday.

Registered voters           45,141    
Total voters            4,373   9.69%
For             2,645 60.48% 5.86%
Against            1,727 39.49% 3.83%

This means that is took less than six percent of the population of the city to impose a tax hike of roughly $350 per household per year on themselves and the other 94 percent of us. So much for majority rules. So much for “democracy.”

Allen Texas High School $60 Million Stadium

Worse this is not the first (nor probably the last) time this has happened. In May 2009, the voters passed a $144,000,000 bond issue for the building a new high school football stadium and a performing arts center. The results were similar:

Registered voters          42,245    
Total voters            3,736   8.84%
For             2,364 63.28% 5.60%
Against            1,349 36.11% 3.19%

In this case 2,364 people imposed a $3,400 per person liability on the rest of their fellow citizens.

Blame Congress, blame Obama, blame Bush, but look in the mirror too. I am sure this goes on in your town to some degree as well.


3 thoughts on “On Why Voting in Local Elections Really Matters More Than Presidential Elections

  1. To me, the issue here is maximizing turnout to elections. When local jurisdictions have numerous elections that off the “roll ups” in November, and maybe May, participation drops to under 10%, and there just isn’t much you can do about that; people are people and have lots of pressures that get in the way of taking time out to vote more than once or twice a year.

    The pressure should be placed on eliminating these “boutique” elections, forcing them to be part of the ones “normal” people can partake in. Here in Austin, we are going through the same BS, with long-term entrenched interests choosing to keep Council elections in May instead of saving money and increasing participation by moving them to Nov, as the Leg tried to force them to. By keeping the elections in May, they increase the leverage that the “central city” interests have, rather than diluting it with turnout from the less-engaged sections of towns. Disappointing, but not surprising.

    And, the school district and County moved all theirs to Nov, so this May Council election will have even lower turnout.

    In my view, this sort of subtle vote tampering has a far greater effect on elections than any of the alleged voter fraud that these new voter id laws are aimed at.

  2. Same thing just hapened here in Colorado. They always use the “we’re going to kill the kitten” retoric and it works everytime.

    I turns out that the extra property tax was never intended for the kids as they said. It actually back funded their insolvent pension fund.

    I don’t know how to do it, but citizens need to realize they have a responsibility to participant in their government. But somehow “dancing with the Stars” is more important.

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