I want to offer a tepid endorsement of the decision rendered this past weekend by voters who live in the Princeton Independent School District.
Those who bothered to vote have endorsed a $797 million bond issue to build several new campuses over the next decade. The amount of the bond issue is gigantic, but it is needed in light of the explosive growth that is occurring — and will continue — within the Princeton ISD.
That’s the good news, and it is very good news, indeed.
However, let’s examine something else. The final unofficial vote totals are, to put it simply, abysmal. Princeton ISD officials said that 597 votes were cast in support of the bond issue, compared to 302 votes cast against it. That’s a 66.4% to 33.6% difference. Not even close!
What drives me to the edge of nuttiness, though, is that local elections do not seem to gin up any interest. I don’t have any hard data on the eligible rolls of voters within the school district. The population of the school district is something a bit north of 20,000 residents. Of that total, my rule of thumb puts the number of eligible voters at about half.
So, if that estimate holds up, that puts the percentage of turnout at less than 9%.
I am compelled to ask whether, therefore, the 597 votes in favor of this bond issue constitute a “mandate.” It most assuredly doesn’t come close to a mandate.
What we have here is a case of a few people making decisions for others.
I long have been a champion for greater voter turnout as a way to spread the power throughout a large base. The turnout for Saturday’s critical bond issue invests far too much power in far too few Princeton ISD constituents.
Our democratic process works better when more of us take part.
Don’t misconstrue me on this point. I am delighted that the bond issue received the endorsement it got. The school system was transparent in developing the proposal. It made its recommendation in full public view.
I only wish more of us would have responded at the ballot box.