Publisher's Note: What the numbers say

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By Tom McDonald

I did a little number crunching on the school board elections last week, and discovered some interesting tidbits.

One of the things I found was that, while turnout was low for West’s election, it wasn’t bad on the east side.

First, let me point out that the numbers I use below are by no means “official,” but that doesn’t mean they’re inaccurate. I gleaned them from Optic reports on the last three school board elections — in 2007, 2009 and last week.

Four years ago, when Gary Gold, Caroline Lopez and Kenny Lujan first ran for the West Las Vegas school board, about 1,604 voters turned out for the election. Last week, when each of them was on the ballots again, seeking re-election, 1,112 votes were cast. That’s only 69 percent of the turnout from four years ago.

Obviously, weather had an impact on this year’s turnout, since we had a good-sized snowfall the night before election day, followed by sub-zero temperatures. But the low turnout also gives credence to the notion that the “throw the rascals out” voters were a lot more motivated than the re-election advocates, at least in two of the races, since Lopez and Lujan were soundly defeated by those who cast their ballots for Marvin Martinez and Henry Abeyta.

In the Las Vegas City School District, however, it was a different story.

In 2007, when the only school board contest was between incumbent Patrick Romero and challenger Dwight Torres, only 877 voters turned out. Last week, 1,301 ballots were cast for that position’s race between Romero, Ricky Serna and Stephanie Salazar.

Now, that’s not quite as high as the 1,379 voters in 2009 —when Gabe Lucero won election and Elaine Luna re-election — but it’s close. I think it says a lot about the passion that was behind this year’s City Schools board election. And, of course, it’s no surprise that voters on the east side would be ready to turn out, with all the turmoil the district has undergone recently.

Imagine if it had been a warm and sunny election day. I wonder what the turnout would have been then.

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And while we’re at it, let’s take a look at the pre-election day voting and how that impacted the results.

On the east side, Gloria Lovato-Pacheco got the most early and absentee votes, with 165. That accounted for 20.5 percent of her total. Take away all those early votes and she still would have easily won over her two opponents, Mark Montoya and Eric Cummings.

On the west side, Martinez got the most early and absentee votes with 211, which was an impressive 28.4 percent of his total vote count. But he too would have handily won without them.

A lot has been said about the rise of early and absentee voting but, as last week’s elections verify, unless it’s close, those votes still don’t tip elections.

Plus, Tuesday also showed that while the weather plays a role in turnout, if the issues are hot enough, a lot of voters will still do their duty.

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I also want to thank all the candidates, whether they won or lost, for putting themselves out there for the good of our schools. Every one of them deserves our respect, because even if they didn’t get elected, at least they tried, and that’s a whole lot more than most of us can say.

Tom McDonald is editor and publisher of the Optic. He may be reached at tmcdonald@lasvegasoptic.com or 505-425-6796.