Election blog: Voters approve both sales tax issues
Baldwin City Voters approved a pair of sales tax questions during the only election in Douglas County Tuesday.
The first question, to extend a half-cent sales tax in place since 1991, passed 347-186, or 66.55 percent to 33.45 percent. It is to be used on infrastructure projects. The second question was a new quarter-cent sales tax to fund “quality of life” projects, such as hiking and biking trails, and the vote was much closer. It passed 290-243 or 55.18 percent to 44.82 percent.
There were 533 voters who cast ballots out of 2,895 registered voters. That’s a turnout of 20.41 percent and Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew thought that was good.
“I think that’s very good,” said Shew, who was here to count the ballots. “I had anticipated 15 percent turnout. I think that’s very good turnout for the only election in the county.”
The last time Baldwin City had a special election was in 2005 when voters approved Sunday sale of liquor. In that election, 15.85 percent of the voters cast ballots. Mayor Ken Wagner was pleased with the turnout, too.
“Wow, that’s awesome,” said Wagner. “This is going to be a great deal for Baldwin City. I appreciate the voters’ confidence in us. The voter turnout was really good. That’s fantastic.”
Among the infrastructure projects the money will be used for is the city’s portion of a $3.5 million upgrade of north Sixth Street, which is County Road 1055. It is a joint project with Douglas County.
Wagner said it was important that people who visit Baldwin City help pay the $180,000 the half-cent sales tax has raised over the years and had been used to pay off the swimming pool early. The quarter-cent tax will raise another $87,500.
“I said all along we need to use this as an opportunity to raise money from the people who come through Baldwin City,” he said. “I thank the voters for making that happen.”
Opponents of the measures had cited that the questions didn’t include an end point for the taxes or specify what they would be used for.
“We’re going to be very prudent on how we spend this,” said Wagner. “This is a great thing for Baldwin City.”
Poll worker Danny McMillan thought the turnout, which mostly consisted of those over 40 years old at the fire station, was good, but he’d like more voters.
“I would have liked a lot more,” said McMillan. I’d like a full house opinion, not a small percentage.”
He’s worked the polls for many years and was asked if he’d seen that kind of turnout.
“No,” he said.
6 p.m. — The final votes are being cast in the Baldwin City sales tax election. Polls will close at 7 p.m. and results will be known around 8 p.m.
At the last check of polling places at 5:30 p.m., the numbers were still close. But the Legion Hall had finally pulled ahead with 156 votes cast. The fire station had registered 140 votes and the primary center had 136.
Another busy location is Ives Chapel Methodist Church where the traditional Election Day Chicken and Noodles feed is underway. The place was packed and the food was good.
We’ll be going to the Legion Hall around 7:15 p.m. to see how the count is going. We’ll be back for one final update with what the voters have chosen regarding the two sales tax questions.
3 p.m. — In a word, the Baldwin City sales tax election is close.
As of 2:45 p.m., 102 people had voted at the fire station, 101 at the Legion Hall and 100 at the primary center. Usually, the Legion Hall leads the way in most elections. However, the hall did lead in advance voting with 23 out of the 41 from Saturday’s vote, so it does have a slim margin.
After a steady stream of voters for most of the morning, that came to a close.
“I think we had a little lull before lunch,” said poll worker Danny McMillan. “I think we hit the wall about 11 a.m.”
Chances are the margin between yes and no votes could be the same. Blog your thoughts on the election by hitting comment below.
11:30 a.m. — The steady vote on the two sales tax questions for Baldwin City continues today.
As of 11:15 a.m., there have been 67 votes cast at the Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center, 61 at the fire station and 54 at the Legion Hall.
“We’ve had very steady voting,” said Becky McMillan, a poll worker at the fire station. “It may slow down this afternoon, but we haven’t had any breaks.”
Advance votes have also been cast, including 41 at the Baldwin City Public Library on Saturday.
“That is a really good turnout,” said Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew.
Of those 41, 23 came from the Legion Hall precinct, so there have been more votes cast there than anywhere.
9 a.m. — Although Halloween is in the past, Tuesday’s election in Baldwin City is off to a spooky start.
At the first check at 9 a.m., all three polling places — American Legion Hall, fire station and Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center — had all recorded the same amount of votes. There have been 28 voters at each of the three places so far, although the primary center does have one provisional ballot.
Still, in the Signal’s 11 years of following elections, the vote totals have never been the same. Ever.
But the spookiness doesn’t stop there. Because of interior work at the fire station, the position of the polling booths has been changed. Everyone has been taken aback by that, poll workers said. Instead of being behind the area where ballots are given, the booths are to the left.
“It’s been so funny,” said McMillan. “People just don’t adapt.”
The Signal will be blogging about the election throughout the day. Voters are being asked to decide the fate of two sales tax questions. One is for continuing the half-cent tax that has been in place since 1991 to be used for infrastructure projects. The second is a quarter-cent tax for “quality of life” projects.
Polls opened at 7 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m. Shew will be at the Legion Hall to count the ballots. Results should be known by 8 p.m. and will be available online.
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