A $92.5 million school bond proposal was worth a few extra voters at the polls on Tuesday.
Voter turnout for the general election checked in at 16.3 percent, up from about 13 percent during the city and school board election of 2011, which did not feature a major bond issue.
“The school bond issue definitely was on my mind today,” said Heidi Benham, who was voting at the American Legion near Sixth and Kasold on Tuesday afternoon.
The bond issue was overwhelmingly approved by voters, earning 72 percent of the ballots cast.
Several voters said they worried about future cuts in education funding at the state level, and wanted to come out and vote for the bond issue to help pay for improvements to Lawrence schools.
But voters cited other issues, as well.
“I came out to vote against the PAC candidates,” said Stacey Van Houten, who was voting at Pinckney Elementary in central Lawrence.
Late in the race, a newly formed political action committee, Lawrence United, sent out mailings supporting candidates Rob Chestnut, Jeremy Farmer and Terry Riordan. Reports filed by the PAC showed the group largely was funded by a handful of Lawrence business executives, some of whom gave up to $5,000 apiece to the group.
“I don’t want that type of election in Lawrence,” Van Houten said. The PAC's effect was mixed, at best: Farmer and Riordan were elected to the City Commission—but Chestnut, a former Commissioner, finished last in the race.
Some voters said more traditional issues — such as city streets and infrastructure — were at the top of their minds on Tuesday. Brian Price, who voted at Langston Hughes Elementary in West Lawrence, said he was interested in how candidates would address issues such as the conversion of the Farmland Industries fertilizer plant into a new business park, and how they would handle future requests for a multimillion-dollar police headquarters building. He said the size and scope of the city’s proposed $25 million recreation center also was on his mind, but he thought that issue largely had been decided by the current commission.
Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew reported no problems with Tuesday’s election, in which final votes were counted by about 9 p.m.
Shew said Tuesday’s election seemed to continue a trend in which more voters are choosing to vote in advance. About 12 percent of the ballots in Tuesday’s election were cast prior to Election Day.
“More commuters are starting to vote in advance so they don’t have to worry about getting here on time on a Tuesday,” Shew said.