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Turning Election Tides - the mail-in ballot dilemma

June 4th, 2018

Most industry professionals will agree, the early 2018 election cycle has produced some surprising results. As you may know, many of these elections mark the first time mandatory mail-in ballots were distributed to the over-65 community within each respective district. The additional influx of mail-in ballot votes resulting from this would appear to be a key component of these unpredictable elections.

For the districts that sought additional funding via bond authorization elections or even sales and use tax approvals, many found their financial plan throttled by failed elections. What had historically been as simple as holding an election and having it pass with 20 votes may very well be a thing of the past. This new paradigm has (inadvertently) served as an invitation for residents to cast their votes on complex issues on which they’ve been not been educated. In the majority of this year’s elections, the only information voters received prior to casting their vote was just the (often hard to digest) language on the ballots themselves.

 Public ignorance, however, is not to be blamed on the public. The responsibility of public awareness falls upon the public entities themselves. Is it reasonable to expect Jack Smith to be any more aware of the necessity of a 124 million dollar bond authorization needed for facilities and infrastructure improvements than anyone else with limited to no data being presented? Point being, votes cast in an election are highly dependent on whether the voters are educated and understand the matter on which they are voting. Poor education, or the complete lack thereof, begets less than favorable election results. (or less ideal?)

 Consequently, meeting this new challenge does require keeping the voters adequately informed and educated on the subject matter. If districts choose not to employ strategic public outreach initiatives and awareness campaigns prior to calling future elections they will then face the consequences of decisions made from an uninformed public. Many voters are already inclined to turn away from casting votes for any election they feel will inherently increase their property tax–especially if no concise explanation of the necessities or benefits have been offered up to appease their natural apprehension toward all tax increases.

In short, this legislative change has invited a newer (but older) generation of voters to the polls that hitherto had been all but uninvited. The ease with which previous elections have passed, may be a thing of the past. Without an active and deliberate outreach to educate and inform these residents who may be voting by mail from the comfort of their home, the public sector realm in Texas may find itself stifled/hindered in its ability to gain the capital needed for healthy growth and continued stability.

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