Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 29, 2013

Older voters dominate election

TRAVERSE CITY — Statistics help tell the story of Northwestern Michigan College’s failed millage election.

Two voters in the August election were 102 years old. Conversely, only five 18-year-olds bothered to vote.

Those who arguably had the most to gain from the increased millage showed up in the smallest numbers. Sixty-five people ages 18-21 cast ballots fewer than those ages 94 and up (67) and less than 1 percent of total votes cast (11,756).

And nearly all the absentee ballots 94.5 percent were cast by people who were 60 and older.

The statistics were drawn from a report presented to the NMC board trustees by fellow board member Ross Childs, who obtained a voter age breakdown in the Aug. 6 special election that voters crushed by a two-to-one margin. The college sought a .4-mill, 15-year property tax hike to support operations.

Political consultant Mark Grebner said NMC board members “shot themselves in the foot” by choosing a special election date. That’s because absentee ballots tend to dominate overall votes in special elections and are typically cast by older voters who are more likely to oppose property tax increases.

“Certainly, the results of this one changed my mind a bit in terms of the timing,” said Doug Bishop, NMC board chairman. “We thought we could get the vote out, and we didn’t. I think probably the ‘no’ votes were in the area of what they would be, but we thought we could offset it with our campaign to get the 'yes' votes out.”

NMC board member Bill Myers agreed.

"I think more turnout will help us, if we communicate what we’re doing for the community," he said.

The board plans to discuss its next request in the spring, but it's too early to say when it will be, Bishop said.

“The need certainly continues, and we just have to look at when,” Bishop said.

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