Almost half of the registered voters in Morgan County turned out to the polls Tuesday night to defeat the proposed Morgan County School District voted local levy.
About 30 people gathered at the county offices late Tuesday night to view the results: 64.41 percent (1,600 votes) against, 35.59 percent (884 votes) for. Of 5,495 registered voters, 45 percent visited the polls (2,485 voters).
Voter turnout was highest in the Croydon District, where 66 percent of registered voters cast their votes strictly by absentee ballot. Compared to the other six voting districts, the Croydon District also had the highest percentage (80.7 percent) of voters voting against the levy.
Voter turnout was lowest in the Mountain Green District at 38.8 percent.
The district with the highest percentage voting for the levy was North Morgan, where 43 percent cast ballots supporting the levy.
Official results will be unveiled at the July 9 canvas, where absentee and provisional ballots will be included in the final tally. As of Tuesday, 137 absentee ballots were still out. To be included in the July 9 canvas, the absentee ballots must be postmarked by June 24 or earlier.
Morgan County Deputy Clerk/auditor Teresa Lake also counted 76 provisional ballots that were not included in Tuesday night’s tally. Provisional ballots are used to record a vote when there are questions about a voter’s eligibility. Provisional ballots are the outcome of a voter refusing to show a photo ID, a voter’s name not appearing on the official registry, or a voter’s registration containing inaccurate or out-of-date information (address, misspelled name).
The 213 votes that will be counted in the coming weeks represent 3.9 percent of all registered voters and 8 percent of those voting in the election. The absentee and provisional ballots will not affect the overall outcome of the vote, Lake said.
Voter turnout, history
The 42 percent voter turnout rate for an election with only one item on the ballot was impressive by some accounts. However, Tuesday’s turnout was less than that in 2004, the last time a tax increase for schools was on the ballot, when 66 percent of registered voters turned out. But it was not the only thing on the ballot that year, considering residents also voted for four county council seats and four school board seats at the same time.
Lake said some voters complained Tuesday that visiting their polling place at Mountain Green Elementary was too far away. Voters in Stoddard had to travel more than 6 miles to get to the polls.
The county may look into using more churches as polling places in the future in an effort to increase voter participation, she said.
Morgan County residents have voted other school levies down in the past, including in both 1999 and 2004.
In 2004, the school district sought a tax increase that would generate $376,000. Residents voted down the leeway tax 58.6 percent (2,076 votes) to 41.4 percent (1,467 votes).
In years past, Morgan County residents have voted down several school board issues at the ballot.
In 1999, seven votes (732 to 739) made the difference in a defeated bond election to build a new elementary school in Mountain Green and an addition to Morgan High School. A voted leeway accompanied the bond on the ballot in 1999, when 35.74 percent of registered voters visited the polls. The leeway was defeated by a 762 to 687 vote.
A year later in 2000, another bond election, this time with an added MHS athletic facility, failed by just 11 votes (1,332 to 1,321). In the 2000 presidential election, voter turnout in the county was 58.39 percent.
Successes include a 2006 vote for a $25 million bond to build Mountain Green Elementary (passed with the support of 75 percent of voters) and a 1992 bond that financed construction of the middle school that passed by just seven votes.
Political issues committees
This time around, two political issues committees officially registered with the state and campaigned actively in the months leading to the election. Each had their own website and used social media to get their word out.
“After months of presentations and debates, the residents of Morgan County exercised their right to vote in favor of or in opposition to the voted local levy proposed by the Morgan County School District. The majority of voters cast their ballots against the voted local levy. Thanks to everyone who has shown us support during this process, and voted in favor of the levy,” said For Morgan Kids representative Diana Windley in a prepared statement. “The members of For Morgan Kids are grateful to have played a role in this important campaign, and will continue to support our school board, administrators, teachers and students as they strive for excellence in education.”
The Morgan Committee for School Budget Discipline, which campaigned against the levy, pledged future support of schools as well.
“Morgan County residents took to the polls and overwhelming spoke on Tuesday. But what did they say? We believe they stepped up and said, ‘Let us work together,’” said representative Kera Birkeland. “We look forward with optimism and believe that Morgan County and our school district will remain strong and united as we work together towards a bright future.
“Now is the time to come together to explore the solutions and options we have. As the school board moves forward and addresses the budget, we believe they will put teachers and education first and that we can all help in enhancing the education of our children. There are many options available that will improve efficiencies within the system, raise additional funds to benefit the district, and evaluate reductions in expenditures that do not have a direct impact on our kids. Let’s draw on the expertise and volunteer spirit that Morgan County residents share.”
Leading up to the election, both committees placed banners and signs in various areas of the county. On Monday, Morgan County employees removed those that were placed along state and county road property and easements, especially those at freeway entrances, because they were out of compliance with the law and those responsible for their placement could have been fined by the state road department. Signs and banners are legal if placed on private property.
“We were yelled at, pictures were taken of us, but we were just doing our jobs,” Lake said.