Why Super Majority Vote Is Fair

A recent batch of bond elections for schools, library, and a community college have caused the old “super majority” issue to once again raise its ugly head. MOST of the recent bonds in the state have passed the 2/3 super majority.

Those in FAVOR of the bonds–not unfairly labeled as “liberals”–see the 67% majority as an unfair hurdle to approving long term public debt. Those AGAINST–reasonably labeled as “conservatives”–like the idea they get to cancel two votes with each of their votes.

Then there are those who don’t like the formula at all. They think the two-thirds super majority should come from two-thirds of the REGISTERED VOTERS–not just two thirds of those who choose to vote.

Some reasoned thoughts from the GUARDIAN:

The super majority (2/3 approval of those who vote) is a fair system. It serves as a safeguard against a very slim majority of voters imposing taxes on the VAST MAJORITY of property owners, many of whom are precluded from voting.

In Ada County about HALF of the property valuation in the county has no vote because it is COMMERCIAL property or owned by absentee landlords. However, the rest of us can vote to impose taxes on all the retail outlets, warehouses, production facilities, etc. Micron has a tax cap, thanks to the legislature. The super majority is a fair safeguard.

In McCall, nearly 75% of the property tax comes from “recreation land” owned by nonresidents. That number probably holds true for all of Valley County as well. Locals can impose taxes on all the vacationers who visit on weekends, but never use the schools and local government facilities often funded by property tax bonds. The super majority is a fair safeguard.

The “fair” alternative would be to allow only property owners–resident and nonresident alike–to vote on property tax issues. Our U.S. supreme court and democratic system won’t allow that feudal process. The super majority is a fair safeguard.

With few exceptions, the percentage need to pass or repeal something is keyed to the number of people who vote in an election–not the number of registered voters. However, the politicos have made it nearly impossible to recall an incumbent by using the “registered voter” number as a standard for recall elections and petitions. “Fair” seems to be a matter of perspective.

For instance. How would proponents feel about a “simple majority” empowered to DISSOLVE a community college or repeal a school property tax bond?

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Just curious to know how you concluded that MOST (your emphasis) of the bonds in the state passed by the 2/3rds majority as you indicated in the opening paragraphy of your piece supporting the super majority vote. I’m aware of the mosquito abatement vote, the community college vote, the Sun Valley sewer vote, and the Jerome schools vote having passed. On the other hand, the sewer vote in Emmett failed, and the Meridian library vote failed, as did school bonds in Wendell, Kimberly and Shoshone. (I suspect the percentages weren’t any better in northern Idaho judging from their furor over property tax problems, but couldn’t locate any numbers). Just for the sake of accuracy, where did you get your statistics that showed that “most” bonds passed during this most recent election cycle as the Guardian indicated?

    EDITOR NOTE–Does this mean you support the super majority?

  2. Here’s my somewhat muddled take:

    1. I voted for the Community College. The Treasure Valley is radically underserved educationally in so many ways. It’s just too big and growing too much for us to turn this kind of request/proposal down, in my view.

    2. I do not like the property tax funding mechanism at all. Community colleges should be funded via the state general fund, which can collect revenue the way it chooses–sales, income or a state property tax.

    3. Idaho’s higher education system is structurally screwed up. There should not be two 4-year schools in the Palouse. That’s nuts, and the politicians who allowed and still allow that to happen are stupid for doing so. The Treasure Valley’s needs are huge. It’s time for a fundamental shift of dollars, programs and resources from Moscow to Boise–we’re in the 21st century, not the 19th century.

    4. The University of (Northern) Idaho should begin shifting massive resources into Kootenai County, where the greatest needs are located. Further money should not wasted on Moscow infrastructure.

    5. The people who bellyache about this election are acting like sore losers. The people/companies who campaigned for it exercised their constitutional and statutory rights and they did so, apparently, without any violations. These exotic arguments about property rights, percentages of registered voters, etc., are perhaps emotionally satisfying, but they amount to nothing more than sitting around a bar table, drinking beer, and griping about things. If you don’t like what happened, make sure you always vote and participate as much as possible in the campaign.

    6. The Legislature should further consolidate elections in Idaho to a finite number of days, like maybe 3 or 4 days per year. If it was consolidated enough, I’d be amenable to reducing the current supermajority down a bit.

  3. The 2/3 requirement is the smartest thing the founding fathers ever did – – please do not change it!!

  4. Regarding your editor’s note: Does WHAT mean I support a super majority?

    Before being certain that most bonds passed that were presented in the recent election cycle (thus supporting your contention that it’s easy to do so with the 2/3rds requirement in place), I just wanted the Guardian to confirm the accuracy of its statement that MOST bonds in the state did indeed pass by clarifying where BG got its statistical information. I just simply need more information before being able to answer your additional question about where I ought to stand on this issue.

  5. sam the sham
    Jun 5, 2007, 10:23 pm

    Well, I am a liberal (actually I am a radical).
    I’d like to see a good community college in the area.
    I voted no. Why? Because there is no plan of action presented to vote on. I did not want to hand out a blank check for something which has no public plans and I just don’t trust handing out my hard earned money to the dimwits (all parties included) who hold public office. NO to the way it is being done. That’s all.

  6. The 2/3’s majority vote is one of our most valuable American traditions because it gives those who TAKE THE TIME AND EFFORT TO VOTE ALL THE TIME the maximum leverage over the ballot box. As the guardian points out the politicians have made it almost impossible to repeal, revoke or recall politicians or their financial boondoggles by insisting that the ” registered voter” number be the key , a very un-American gerrymandering of our political system.

    What it comes down to is..The voter is supposed to be the King in our system, not the number of registered voters and certainly not the DIMWITS ( THANKS Sam!) that we have let become our lifetime political non-representatives!

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