by David Abdel
Another election has come and passed, and yet again, Hays County has shown how much it cares for local elections. The results are in for the Hays CISD Board of Trustees and bond elections, and unsurprisingly, we’ve reverted back to a population that simply doesn’t seem to care.
During the November elections, Hays County made national news being the first county in America to surpass its 2016 voter turnout. It was supposed to be the dawn of a new age of civic engagement in our county. Fueled by a very divisive Presidential campaign, droves of voters turned out to make their voice heard democratically. When all was said and done, record voter totals were reached.
The Kyle mayoral race ended in a runoff, so voters were asked to return to the polls once more, to make the final say in whose vision would guide their local government for years to come. Fewer than 3,000 voters were cast that day, meaning just over 8% of registered Kyle voters bothered to come out and exercise their right. Only 8% of residents of Kyle felt it was worth their time and effort to decide who would be mayor of their town. That level of turnout is not indicative of a town fully engaged. To me, that level of turnout means that only about 10% of our residents actually care about what is going on locally, the rest just showed up weeks earlier because of the Presidential race. That is a darn shame.
Flash forward to this election, held over the last week or so. Hays CISD residents had the opportunity to weigh in on a massive bond package that would decide how our tax dollars are spent, in addition to deciding two seats on our school board. For the unaware, the school board plays a major role in planning the trajectory of our school system. These seats are of real consequence. They help ensure equity, transparency and accountability. Clearly, we all would want the best people for the job, as it impacts each and every one of us, regardless of if you have children in our schools.
According to county election precinct totals, there are more than 60,000 registered voters within the borders of Hays CISD. The total number of votes cast for the board elections and bond proposals numbered less than 3,000. That leaves us with roughly 5% of voters turning up to help make these critical decisions. That is, and I struggle with saying this, pathetic. When 95% of people don’t care about the school board, it sends a very distinct message about how our residents feel about our schools.
What I find most appalling about these figures is that it contradicts the number of opinions about matters I consistently see expressed by people online. It appears as though everyone has something to say about our local government, something to say about school board decisions, but when push comes to shove, the blustering keyboard warriors don’t seem to show up to the real fight, in the ballot box. It’s time we really have a heart to heart on how change actually takes place. Expectations are fruitless without action. Change doesn’t “come”, change gets made. Right now, it doesn’t look like anyone wants change, or even the status quo. It just seems like no one cares, about anything.
It’s time we get our heads out of wherever they are buried. Actions may have consequences, but inaction does as well. Get involved. You may not be into local affairs, but trust, they sure are into you.