Just five people voted to approve a $1M bond for this Oklahoma school district

November 15, 2013

(Credit: Marlon Correa, The Washington Post.)

The tax burden for the residents of Oklahoma’s Crutcho School District is growing thanks to just five of their peers.

During Oklahoma’s special elections on Tuesday, the district’s roughly 900 voters had a chance to weigh in on a $980,000 bond issue for the district’s one school. It won unanimously—with just five votes.

“They always have a small turnout there; this is a little bit smaller than in the past,” said Doug Sanderson, who administers elections as Oklahoma County Election Board secretary. Crutcho, home to just over 2,000 residents roughly 1,400 of them adults, is a part of Oklahoma County. The vote was first reported by The Oklahoman.

The results won’t be finalized until Friday afternoon, he said, but based on a preliminary review, he doesn’t expect things to change.

While pundits often lament the declining turnout in national elections, turnout locally is often much worse. Turnout for this particular bond issue was about half a percent, because the district is home to roughly 900 registered voters, according to Sanderson. And the consequences of low turnout can make local votes less democratic, University of Wisconsin political science professor Aaron Weinschenk wrote in a Sept. 10 blog post.

“[L]ow turnout in city elections appears to reduce the representation of Latinos and Asian Americans on city councils and in the mayor’s office, skew local spending policies, and create opportunities for organized interests to influence public policy,” he wrote.

An outside organization would need to assemble just a handful of voters to skew a vote like the one in Crutcho, where as in so many local elections low turnout is standard. In May 2011, just 10 people voted on a $220,000 bond issue, Sanderson said. In February 2010, just 14 votes were cast on a roughly $1 million bond issue.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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