Albuquerque Public Schools latest bond and levy tax proposal is already generating strong voter turnout in an abnormal mail-only special election.
So, will the strong turnout spell the success or failure of the district’s proposals?
APS is asking voters to approve a few tax increases that would raise an estimated $900-million for school building projects and classroom equipment.
Thousands of more voters have already cast ballots compared to other tax elections in years past. According to the Bernalillo County Clerk’s Office, 24 percent of ballots that were sent out have already been turned in.
As of Thursday, the Clerk’s Office reported 101,050 ballots have been turned in; 417,000 ballots were initially sent out.
“It’s an exciting time, but it’s also a nerve-racking time,” said APS’ Capital Master Plan Executive Director Kizito Wijenje, speaking of the election Thursday.
Wijenje’s plans and manages the district’s various building projects, many of which can only be completed soon if the tax increases pass.
“The taxpayer decides what the direction and the magnitude of our work will be,” said Wijenje.
The high-stakes election for APS is also abnormal due to its mail-only ballot. With 24 of ballots turned in, voter turnout is already nearly double what other school-related elections normally generate.
“I believe that about three times as many people as turned out for the actual school board election,” said Gabe Sanchez, a University of New Mexico political science professor and KRQE’s political analyst.
Sanchez says historically, high turnout in school elections usually means more opposition. The last bond election APS lost was in 2002. The election generated a higher turn out as the district was emerging from a controversy involving the buyout of a superintendent.
Sanchez notes, the mail-in ballot this year may mean a different group of voters is participating in the election.
“Does that open up the participation rates beyond just highly sophisticated, highly educated segment of the city of Albuquerque’s population?” said Sanchez. “If that happens, that changes what we usually see in terms of the norm of the outcomes.”
APS hopes the high-turnout falls in its favor.
“It’s a much higher turnout, I don’t know which way it will fall, I hope it falls in my opinion for children and for the community,” said Wijenje.
If all the property tax increases pass, APS estimates a homeowner with a $220,000 home would pay an extra $146 a year in property tax to APS.
All ballots have to be in possession of the Bernalillo County Clerk by Tuesday at 7 p.m. If it’s too late to mail, you can drop it off at the Clerk’s Office downtown or the warehouse on South Broadway.