More than 15,000 ballots have been returned for the Kyrene School District’s override election, almost five times more than were cast three years ago when voters were last asked to vote on the measure.
As of Thursday, 15,431 early ballots had been returned to the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office for the Maintenance and Operation and K-3 overrides, which provide funding for art, music and physical education classes and also ensure that KSD class sizes remain small.
The significant increase in ballots cast is believed to be a result of the Permanent Early Voter List, which allows people to vote before the election at their convenience, officials said.
In 2007, 3,284 total ballots were cast, and there remains time this year for that number to be dwarfed even more.
Early voting in person has closed, but voters have other options for voting. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked before March 9 and received by the recorder’s office by that date.
“Early ballots must be dropped at a polling place or in the recorder’s office by 7 p.m. on March 9,” said Yvonne Reed, director of communications for the Maricopa County Elections Department. “They can be dropped off at any polling place, not necessarily in the particular district you are voting for.”
In addition, polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 9.
The stakes are high in Kyrene.
“The schools have already had cuts to their funding from the state, so even if the override passes they will be working with much smaller budgets than usual,” said Mitzi Epstein, chair of the political committee Yes Public Ed. “Every little amount of money in our Arizona schools counts. Arizona’s per-pupil funding ranks 50th in the U.S.”
If passed, the overrides will not create an increase in taxes, but instead maintain current tax rates. The average cost in taxes of the override to a household with a home value of $298,270, which is the average KSD home value, is $129 per year.
“By and large, people think that the override is not a lot of money and that Kyrene schools and education are worth it,” Epstein said. “We need quality education to keep our economy strong.”
According to Reed, voter turnout in override elections is typically low. However, this year’s numbers suggest that voters are coming out in force.
“The busiest times at polling places are usually before work, during lunch time, and after work before the polls close,” Reed said.
Epstein said override supporters hope the increase in voter turnout will work in KSD’s favor.
“We have about 50,000 voters in KSD on the list, which shows that our voters care,” Epstein said. “However, with so many people voting it makes us wonder what will happen because we have no idea how they’ll all vote.”