The coronavirus pandemic, and efforts to expand voter access to absentee balloting, may have led to an unexpected spike in voter participation in school votes earlier this year, a report released Thursday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office found.
Voter participation in school budget votes statewide tripled to 1.6 million votes this year, which came amid efforts to limit the spread of the virus, closing non-essential businesses, schools and other large gathering areas.
In-person voting was suspended and replaced with absentee ballots.
Schools, of course, face deepening financial problems amid the pandemic and the dried up tax revenue as a result of the pandemic-induced closures earlier this year.
“The pandemic has upended every aspect of our lives and our schools are no exception,” DiNapoli said. “Using the absentee ballot process put into place this year, voters participated in greater numbers to approve the vast majority of school district budgets. We need to embrace smart actions like this to help New Yorkers engage on issues critical in their communities.”
Nevertheless, results were largely the same: Only 1.6% of the spending plans put before votes failed to pass on the first vote. Thirteen budgets sought to override the cap on property tax increases, which requires a 60% supermajority of approval. Of those, four were turned down by voters on the first vote.