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Despite Bonds That Favor Voter Passage, Ballot Placement Might Work Against Them

Come November, Houston voters will be asked to approve bond issues that carry a price tag of more than $2.5 billion dollars. Polling indicates strong support for the measures. One problem might be the position on the ballot though.


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The poll was commissioned by Citizens for Better Schools, a political action committee formed to support one of the bond issues. It calls for spending nearly $2 billion dollars to build or refurbish HISD schools.

Another proposal asks voters to approve spending another $425 million dollars for the Houston Community College system.

Both school measures if approved, will mean a hike in property taxes.

Rice University political scientist Bob Stein helped conduct the polling, that found voters favored the measures by a 2-1 margin.

“The truth is, we have an interest in public schools. Because people buy homes and move to neighborhoods for many reasons, one of which is good schools. And we find that this tax increase is long offset by people’s expectations that’ll help not only their property, but the property and the quality of life in their neighborhood.”

Stein says that question bodes well for the City of Houston’s $410 million dollar bond package, that does not require a tax increase.

“Why would the bonds do so well in the midst of what we believe or at least, we’ve been told by many, is the recession? And the answer to that question comes from when we asked voters, ‘Okay, tell me whether the city of Houston and the Houston area is heading in the right or wrong direction.’ 69-percent think it’s heading in the right direction.”

He warns that the placement of the bond issues at the bottom of the ballot, might actually confuse voters who think they’ve weighed in on all the issues.

“When you vote on the E-slate, we think, we have evidence of this that a lot of people under vote. They think they voted a whole ballot. We’ve noticed that people who voted early and by mail, they’re less likely to miss these bond initiatives. But people on Election Day, on average about in their precinct, 15 percent of voters will miss those completely.”

Stein says he expects an effort to encourage early voting, so that residents won’t be rushed when pouring through the long ballot.

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