Editorial: Get Out The Vote
School district taxes often make up the largest component of a homeowner’s tax bill, and school board trustees are elected to make sure the districts run smoothly. And yet school budget votes and trustee elections generally attract some of the lowest voter turnout across the spectrum of local, regional and national elections.
The numbers are pretty abysmal.
In the Sag Harbor School District, which has about 5,300 registered voters, voter turnout over the last eight years has ranged from a low of 800 people in 2014, or about 15 percent, to a high of 2,072 in 2010, or about 39 percent. It took a hot-button issue like the purchase of the former Stella Maris Regional School and a tight board of education race last year to bring out a middle-of-the-road turnout of about 1,325 voters, or 25 percent.
In Bridgehampton, which has about 1,200 registered voters, the numbers are about the same. Over the same eight years, voter turnout hit a low of 155, or about 13 percent, in 2015, and peaked at 475, roughly 39.5 percent, in 2009. In January of 2014, when an $827,000 slate of capital improvements was on a special ballot for voter approval in Bridgehampton, just 70 voters turned out to ultimately approve the proposition.
That’s why it is imperative that residents inform themselves on the issues and show up to cast ballots on May 16, the day reserved across New York State for all public schools to hold their budget votes and school board elections.
There should be no excuses, even if rain is in the weather forecast. Know someone unsure about how to vote? Share a newspaper article on social media. Know someone who is elderly or needs a lift to the school gym? Offer him a ride. What with the national electoral college the way it is — regardless of how your opinion on that system falls — school budget votes and trustee elections are truly one of the most direct forms of local control and representation that residents can achieve, so don’t let it go to waste.
And for those who are not yet registered to vote, both the Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor school districts will hold in-person voter registration hours on Tuesday, May 9. Sag Harbor’s registration hours will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the district office and Bridgehampton’s hours will be from 4 to 8 p.m. in the district office.