Friday, May 17, 2013

Attention Civics Teachers

I mentioned that we had local election in Texas this past's one result I missed that may be of interest. One of the small-town school boards around here had a one-vote election. No, not a one-vote margin...well, that too. A one vote election.

It happened in the Lytle school district, in Lytle, Texas. It's a small town to begin with, population about 2400, although the school district must be bigger -- there are apparently 1700 students involved. Local elections normally include city council and tax measures as well as school board, but none of the council elections were contested, so they were canceled, and no tax measures were needed this time. So it was just the school board, with only two contested districts out of seven total. And in one of those, only one person bothered to vote.

The candidates? The rules say they don't need to live in their districts, and as it happens neither winner Christina Mercado or loser Patty Cortez did live there.

There wasn't a recount -- would have been fun! -- but there was some suspense in the form of one provisional ballot, which turned out to have been cast by someone outside of the district, and thus not allowed.

I suppose if you want to look at this from a elections policy angle, I'd probably question why these local elections can't be on the same day as the general election. On the other hand, since there's no account of either candidate actually campaigning, it's not as if a larger general election day electorate would have been making a more informed decision on what is (I'm pretty sure) a nonpartisan election.

But anyone who wants to tell stories about why one vote might make a difference: clip and save this one from Lytle.


  1. You might also title this: attention rational voting paradox, you were almost empirically borne out!

  2. I'm wondering what percent of the adult population in this Hispanic-majority town are not US citizens and therefore not eligible to vote. If it's a high percentage, that would do a little to explain low voting totals, though it could hardly be a complete explanation for totals *this* low...

  3. I have to wonder whether the invalidated vote was from one of the contestants. What other outsider would vote in a school election?

  4. For what it's worth, I see it as part of the deep dysfunction of local "democracy" in America.

    From the point of view of the average voter: you have no information on the candidates, little or no information on the challenges facing the school board, after they're elected you'll still have practically zero information on what the board is doing (unless you really seek it out, and even attending board meetings without strong prior resources of information is unlikely to enlighten you on underlying issues and/or any local political maneuverings), even if the district is running out of money and teachers are close to striking you're unlikely to get any in-depth reporting; and if the board is making unsound decisions, it won't be known 'til months later and there will be little or no accountability of board members for those decisions.

    Why would anyone feel they had a stake in voting?

    1. Because their confused about the Kantian Imperative.

  5. Scott,

    Could be someone who lives very near the school district but not quite in it. Or maybe some confusion about where their official primary residence is.

  6. "...from a elections policy angle, I'd probably question why these local elections can't be on the same day as the general election."

    I hope that's one of those Socratic questions, because everyone knows that the reason we don't schedule local elections to coincide with state elections, and state elections to coincide with federal, is to discourage people from voting. The voters who are the least easily discouraged tend to vote one way in particular.

    In this case the mechanism seems to have overachieved, but perhaps the outcome favored the folks who don't like people voting, so maybe it's a win for them anyhow.

    1. You are of course correct about the reason. Not exactly meant as Socratic; more of a futile rhetorical, maybe?

      I do suspect, however, that in many of these cases the elections were set generations ago, and they are where they are now out of inertia plus indifference more than anything else.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?