The Elusive Clear Majority

In the public debate around the closure of Hoover Elementary, there have been efforts to dispute the notion that a majority of the community favors keeping all existing schools open.

Here’s Eric Johnson in the comments of a Press-Citizen piece written by Chris Liebig (also published at A Blog About School here):

Chris makes some good points here, but there are a few other things to consider on each one:Responsiveness to public input: The “public” that Chris claims made its views clear during the visioning process consisted of about 450 unique people total. So, the claim that the mind of “the public” is known on this quite a stretch.

I have seen other comments to this effect, that workshop results do not represent the view of the majority, and that commenters at school board meetings do not represent the view of the majority.

This could very well be true but I don’t think we can really know what people think who don’t speak up, so I reject the assumption that everyone who didn’t show up to speak supports closing Hoover but were too intimidated to say so.  It is just as likely that they aren’t paying attention, don’t care either way, or thought their view point was capably communicated by the workshop participants and commenters who spoke out against closing schools so they very reasonably stayed home.

I do think that it is striking that no campaign has the slogan “Equity, Excellence, and parking lots where elementary buildings used to stand.”

[Save Hoover: Where is your Big Yellow Taxi spoof video?  I’m humming “They paved Hoover School and put up a parking lot” to myself as I write this.]

Instead we’re hearing talk about moving forward and being team players.

But I digress, because my main point is this:  We’re never going to know for sure what “a majority” thinks about anything under Eric Johnson’s standard; school board elections are notorious for low voter turnout.

  • 2011: 5.96% or 4492 “unique people total”
  • 2009: 6.08% or 4394 “unique people total”
  • 2008: 2.66% or 1852 “unique people total”
  • 2007: 4.13% or 2586 “unique people total”

The 450 “unique people total” who participated in the workshop is just shy of the 515 voters who participated in the 1992 school election–0.96% turnout!–and no doubt that, despite the low turnout, the election counted and the duly elected candidates were seated on the school board.

Elections matter.

Elections matter even if the turnout is low and doesn’t constitute an actual majority of the registered voters in the community.

The majority of the people who cast ballots ultimately get to “speak” for the majority, no matter how small the actual number is, so if you care about whether or not Hoover Elementary is closed to make way for a City High parking lot or athletic field (or about any other issue in your school district that might be determined by school board members), this is the time to show up and be heard.  Polls close Tuesday, September 10th at 8 pm.

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2 thoughts on “The Elusive Clear Majority

  1. mandy

    Karen,
    I just left a similar comment on a blog about school before I read your post. You however, articulated the points much more eloquently and had the nice addition of the posting the voter turnouts. Strong work. I love the blog.

    Reply

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