Skubick: The politics of February elections

Raise your hand if you have ever voted in a February election.

Be honest. 

If you are like the typical citizen, your hand did not go up. Most didn't know there were such elections and, if you did, you probably were not motivated to show-up unless your local school board nudged you really hard to vote.

Since the only items on the winter ballot are usually millage increases, some GOP lawmakers complain that these tax increases are decided by a handful of voters and therefore, the February election should be eliminated in favor of placing those increases on the May or November ballots where more folks show up.

In addition to that argument, it's being pitched as a cost saver, according to Rep. Lisa Lyons (R-Alto) who runs the house education committee.

From a crass political standpoint, the theory goes, school boards seeking more money have a better shot at winning if fewer souls bother to vote in the dead of winter.

Some Republicans, the critics contend, would do just about anything to kill tax increases and by allowing more voters to judge these issues, the theory goes, the chances of defeating a millage in a different month go up.

Not true contends veteran school board lobbyist Don Wotruba. 

Tell that to Ms. Lyons.

"I wanted to make sure that we were putting tax increases on the ballot with more voter participation," she argues.

Yeah but, Mr. Wotruba counters. He argues when you place these millage questions on the November ballot, the voters never get that far down on the ballot and end up not voting for them anyway. "There is no way to get above the fray," he observes.  At least having them as a single issue in February, he contends, voters can be more informed.

Plus he adds there are no savings and therefore low voter turnout is not "a good enough reason to pass this bill."

If you were a betting person, put some money on the Republicans winning this battle.
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