Thursday, March 13, 2008

Levy Vote Analysis

The unofficial results of the March 4 Primary have been posted by the Franklin County Board of Elections. Here's the results of a little number crunching:


10,757 FOR (43%) to 14,070 (57%) AGAINST
71 precincts, won 17

Brown Twp:

259 FOR (26%) to 736 AGAINST
2 precincts, lost in both


4,950 FOR (50%) to 5,003 AGAINST
34 precincts, won in 13


377 FOR (36%) to 665 AGAINST
4 precincts, won in 1

Franklin (township)

5 FOR (28%) to 13 AGAINST
1 precinct

Hilliard (City of)

4,041 FOR (42%) to 5,613 AGAINST
21 precincts, won in 3


601 FOR (36%) to 1,090 AGAINST
4 precincts, lost in all


457 FOR (37%) to 781 AGAINST
4 precincts, lost in all


77 FOR (31%) to 169 AGAINST
1 precinct


I'll make a few observations, then see what you folks think. As always, please keep your tone respectful.

  1. Why was the strongest support from the precincts in the City of Columbus?

    For those folks who think the solution is to chop off the parts of the district which has been annexed to the City of Columbus, note that almost all the precincts in which the levy passed are in Columbus.

    Possible answers include:

    a) the people living in Columbus are extraordinarily well informed, understand the situation the school district is in, and are willing to support the school financially;

    b) the Columbus folks aren't particularly well informed (like most of our community), but are willing to commit more tax dollars in support of the schools anyway;

    c) the urban legend that people in Columbus pay less Hilliard school tax than everyone else is pervasive in the Columbus community, and so they voted in favor of the levy believing that someone besides them was going to get stuck with the tax increase.

    If this is the true situation, the consequence is that as the truth replaces legend - the truth being that Columbus residents pay exactly the same amount of school tax as the rest of us - levy support in Columbus, where 40% of those who voted in this election live, might trend towards the distribution in the rest of the district.
  2. Other interesting statistics:

    The precinct with the highest percentage of FOR voters was Columbus 78-A at 62% (140 to 85), which is primarily Youngland Estates, north of Feder Rd between Hilliard-Rome and Alton-Darby.

    Highest number of FOR votes: Hilliard 4-C with 305. However, the AGAINST was 323 votes, so it was just about a tie. This is the area around Cross Creek Elementary.

    Largest number of AGAINST votes: Brown-A with 480 (vs 179 FOR). This is the part of Brown Twp west of Walker Rd (the westernmost part of the district). Brown-A also had the largest spread - 301 votes (27% to 73%).

    The levy did not carry in any of the townships, with the aggregate vote being 1,399 (33%) to 2,789.
  3. How did the precincts of our district leadership vote?

    Denise Bobbitt: Norwich-B: 201 (38%) - 325
    Andy Teater: Hilliard 2-D: 257 (41%) - 368
    Doug Maggied: Brown-A: 179 (27%) - 480
    Lisa Whiting: Columbus 78-B: 133 (44%) - 169
    Dave Lundregan: Dublin 2-G: 121 (34%) -234
    Dale McVey: Hilliard 2-B: 238 (40%) -359
    Bobbi Mueller: Columbus 76-D: 255 (50%) - 256
  4. The number of voters in the District is about 40,000, but only 25,000 voted in this election. Actually, 62% turnout is pretty high, and can be attributed to the voter interest generated by the Presidential primary.

    For the November election, we might have on the order of 75% turnout, maybe higher. At 75%, it would mean 30,000 people would cast votes, or 5,000 more than in this election. If every single person who casted a voted in the Primary votes exactly the same, then 82% of the extra 5,000 people would have to vote in favor of the levy to get it passed.

This does not seem likely, so unquestioningly the burden is to change the minds of many of the 14,000 who voted against the levy this time.

ps - a copy of my spreadsheet is available here


  1. Lots of good info here. Can you point me to a precinct map? It appears (but I'm not sure) that the more affluent the precinct, the less likely they were to vote in favor of the levy. Certainly interesting considering the economy was cited by many as the leading cause of levy failure. Does that mean those with more are more extended? Or that another reason can be attributed to this line of voting?

  2. KJ:

    Don't know of any Franklin County precinct maps available online. I have a voter database left over from when I ran for the School Board, so I just look up the streets and try to guess which neighborhoods might be included in a precinct.

    Household Income might correlate to voting against, but my bet is that the strongest correlation is to age group, with the senior citizens being both faithful voters, and more likely to worry about the squeeze on their fixed incomes.

    The thing that concerns me most is the high level of support in the Columbus precincts. I suspect it is due to misinformation - the mistaken belief that as a Columbus resident, you can vote FOR a levy and not have to pay it (or pay all of it).

    If my supposition is accurate, and this mistaken belief is corrected, lots of YESs might turn into NOs, making the job of turning around voter inclinations even harder.

    Voter ignorance is never a good thing - it makes things very unpredictable.


  3. I was very surprised by these results. If I were making a bet, I would have put my money on almost the OPPOSITE breakdown. Of course, I'm not sure what the senior citizen distribution is for the district, but I would have assumed that the higher the income the more likely to vote yes.

    Anyone else surprised?? This is one of the reasons we need an analysis that will tell us where the barriers to success reside so that those fears/reasons can be addressed or minimized.

  4. You mean like a "lessons learned"?

  5. ummm, something like that, yes. :-)

  6. KJ,

    Your conclusions work to a degree, but not necessarily for City of Hilliard.

    I'm fairly certain...
    As far as the City of Hilliard is concerned, it is actually Wards 1 & 3 ('older', more modest portions of the community) that historically are less supportive of school tax issues. Wards 2 & 4 tend to be more supportive of tax issues. I believe Ward 2 includes much of the northeastern portions of COH. Ward 4 (which I know better, since I live there) includes Hoffman Farms/Estates of Hoffman Farms/Village at Homestead, Lakewood, Brookfield Village, Westbriar, Hyde Park, Sutton Place and Heritage Lakes as well as some other subdivisions.

    Residents in the City of Columbus have always tended to be more supportive of the school tax issues. The townships are typically the least supportive of school tax issues (not surprising).

  7. Anon, that sounds about right to me. (I live in Ward 4 as well).

    Ward 2&4 were more supportive than Ward 1&3. None had support above 43% though. Ward 3 offered the least support.

    W1 FOR-41% AGAINST-59%
    W2 FOR-43% AGAINST-57%
    W3 FOR-36% AGAINST-64%
    W4 FOR-44% AGAINST-56%

    But you are correct, W2&4 had a narrow STDEV while W1&W3 showed the greatest volatility with a large STDEV.

    The only two precincts to win came from 2 and 4 (one each). Ward 1 had one tie (counted in Paul's numbers as a win).

    So why does the City of Columbus have a better voting record for the schools than Hilliard? That's striking to me. Is it as Paul said (misinformation) or is it something else?

  8. I guess W1 had two ties. My bad

  9. KJ,

    1) On levy votes that end up passing, I think the differential between 2/4 & 1/3 is greater. Perhaps checking into the past abstracts could confirm that.

    2) Could it be that the City of Columbus residents see Hilliard Schools as the primary reason their property values are higher than their counterparts in Columbus Schools? Or, is their overall tax rate lower enough (due to lower municipality taxes) to make them more amenable to voting yes? I haven't drawn any conclusions, I'm just throwing more options out there.

  10. Those are valid points.

    I, too, wondered if there wasn't more "headspace" in Columbus taxes, thus allowing more of a positive vote.

    I have no idea either. But I'd love to have demographics for each voting precinct (or Ward) in the district and compare that to voting trends. Does anyone know if that exists? Is that something the campaign committee looks at?

    That would begin to tell a very real story, wouldn't it? Plus, understanding (like my straw poll) where the critical line for passage exists would also be nice to know. But, that takes money, if the data isn't easily generated.

  11. City of Columbus residents generally pay lower property taxes than the rest of us because the rest of us pay for the Norwich Twp Fire Department with our property taxes while in Columbus, city services are paid for primarily via income taxes. You can confirm this by going to the county auditor's website, pulling up any random house in Columbus - pick my old one, 2041 Cannongate Ct - and compare it to a house in the City of Hilliard and one in a township. You'll note that the City of Hilliard has a property tax levy as well.

    For years there have been real estate agents who would tell potential buyers that they could "Have Hilliard Schools and Columbus Taxes." I think many buyers took that quite literally and thought they weren't paying Hilliard school tax. I say this because I have had many conversations over the the years with folks who said precisely that.

    And I think it may be true that the folks with the highest property tax burdens are those who live in the townships, like me, because townships are entirely funded by property taxes. That may have something to do with why township residents tend to vote against additional levies.

    Of course I also pay income tax to the City of Hilliard because that's where my business is located...

  12. Correction - we moved out of the City of Hilliard and into the City of Columbus last year. so I now pay Columbus income taxes. But we still pay Hilliard School tax.

  13. Paul, thank you for the excellent analysis. Well, we know the Hilliard School Board isn't prepared to educate the tax paying public about the next levy or even make the hard decisions on spending so it's up to us to educate the public, the school board and our friendly neighborhood teacher's union that we WANT a levy to pass, but we're not going to if something isn't done about wasteful spending and generous salaries and benefits. Also, when is Herr Mayor's term up?

  14. Are there more apartment dwellers in Columbus, and wouldn't those voters be more likely to vote for the levy since they don't directly pay property taxes?

    If every single person who casted a voted in the Primary votes exactly the same...

    I'd be surprised at that happening. Normally levies fail the first time and then later pass. I don't think that's because new pro-levy voters are entering the voting pool. It's because a significant number of voters change their votes because they feel by making the district wait, the district tightens its belt. Then voters feel like they're not getting "taken for a ride".

    On turnout in November, it's hard to imagine seeing 75%. The only chance of that is, I think, if Obama wins the nomination and brings a lot of new voters - voters who will be more likely to vote FOR the levy based on your analysis.

  15. Mayor Schonhardt was just re-elected to a new four year term starting January 1, 2008. He ran unopposed...

    Voter dynamics: 75% is not unheard of - we had very nearly that in Hilliard for the 2004 Presidential election. In that election there was a very strong "can't let Bush|Kerry win" motivation (depending on your politics). I suspect we'll have the same dynamic in this election, regardless of who wins the Democratic nomination.

    Not only that, but I believe an incredible number of votes will be cast absentee by people who don't want to stand in the huge lines like in 2004 - a situation which might be exacerbated if paper ballots are used (if the process takes longer).

    The consequence of that is many people will cast their votes up to a month before the election. The levy campaign committee will have to time its messaging so that those people are reached prior to October.

  16. In 2004 there were two very motivated parties. In 2008, the earlier indicators suggest that Republicans are far less motivated than last time.

    Regardless, my other points were the important ones: apartment dwellers making an impact and the fact that many people change their vote after seeing the district "in pain".

  17. Apartment dwellers: In a quick scan of the voter registrations (from last summer), I don't see that many folks who live in apartments even registered. Maybe a lot will register in time for this election. If so, is their propensity for vote for or against school levies? You're probably right that they might vote FOR in the mistaken believe that property taxes don't affect them. If the property owner has to pay more tax, the owner will certainly try to pass that cost on via the rent. But maybe it gets divided over so many units so as to be immaterial to an individual renter. Interesting stuff to think about.

    My analysis is not meant to argue the point that I think voters will in fact vote exactly the same in November as they did in March, but rather just to illustrate the magnitude of the challenge. Without question, some who voted NO in March will vote YES in November.

    The big unknown is the voters who will show up Nov, but did not in March. Will their profile be significantly different than the March voters? Are they more apt to vote YES or vote NO? How many of them will there be?

    I think you underestimate the number of Republicans who will show to vote against whomever the Democrats put on the ticket.

    Cool thing about a blog - it's all in writing, so we'll get to see who was closest to the right answer come November 4th.

    I'll take 71% aggregate turnout for the precincts comprising the school district.