Turnout for statewide school board elections on Tuesday was lower than usual, and election officials blame the weather.
Snow fell all day across most of Oklahoma County, making what is traditionally a low turnout day even lower than usual, said Doug Sanderson, secretary of the Oklahoma County Election Board.
About 5 percent of registered voters in the Oklahoma City Public Schools district showed up to vote for a school board chairman and to fill two other open seats on the board, according to data released by the election board on Wednesday.
A total of 6,583 votes were cast in the race for chairman of the Oklahoma City School Board on Tuesday, compared with 11,250 who voted in the same race in 2009.
“Usually it's going to be in the 8 to 15 percent range and I think, you know, some of that dipped a little lower, and I suspect it had to do with the weather,” Sanderson said. “But it just really depends on the nature of the campaign — how heated the campaigns were, how much publicity there was. There's a number of factors; I couldn't say one was more determinant over another.”
The low numbers were similar at other school districts, including Deer Creek (6 percent), Edmond (5 percent), Putnam City (3 percent) and Western Heights (3 percent), despite both board elections and multimillion-dollar bond issues in each of those except Deer Creek.
Turnout in the Harrah School District, however, reached 20 percent. Voters there apparently turned out in droves to reject a $36 million bond issue for new construction.
That issue was rejected 593-471, though a second proposition — $600,000 for new buses — was approved by voters 646-428.
Turnout numbers for school board races are hard to compare with other years because not everyone in the county is eligible to vote in the races, Sanderson said. In some years, no races develop at all, he said.
Turnout also was down statewide, said Paul Ziriax, secretary of the state Election Board.
“But I think overall things went very well considering we were dealing with inclement weather in a large portion of the state,” Ziriax said. “We're very thankful that none of our poll workers or any voters we heard reports about were injured; that's always a danger when you have a regular election in the middle of February.”
Runoff elections in those cases where no candidate for school board received more than 50 percent of the vote — including in the Deer Creek district — are scheduled for April 2.