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Vote Totals That Change Tiverton

The grumblings have begun, belittling the significance of the 1,535 Tiverton residents who voted for Budget #2.  Here’s Tiverton 1st coordinator Brian Medeiros:

Obviously, tonight’s FTR results are a big disappointment. So, too, was the turnout, just around 20%, when over 60% turned out for the November election. It’s a sad commentary on the level of voter participation when a 20% turnout is reported as a “large turnout”.

Of course, size is relative.  Compared with a typical financial town meeting (FTM) of a few hundred voters, the 2,601 who turned out for this year’s financial town referendum (FTR) is definitely a “large turnout.”  I may be forgetting something, but I don’t recall Medeiros complaining when he and his political allies won massive tax increases the old-fashioned way.

There’s a closer and more important point of comparison, though.

Perhaps the single-most-momentous vote made by Tiverton voters in the recent past was on November 16, 2004, when a total of 2,511 Tiverton residents voted on whether to commit themselves and their neighbors to over $30 million in debt to build three elementary schools.  At that time 1,292 voters, with a margin of 73 votes, effectively committed the town to an 11% tax increase, or greater.

If 37 people had changed their minds and voted against the bonds, the last decade of Tiverton political history would have looked very different.

Whether Medeiros was an advocate for the school bonds, I don’t know, but there can be little doubt that many of his local allies were.  If it’s a “disappointing” “sad commentary” that 1,535 voters can limit a tax increase by two percentage points, to 0.9% rather than 2.9%, with a margin of 469 votes, one wonders what the Tiverton 1st crowd thinks of the much more significant effect of a smaller group voting for all that debt.

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Justin Katz

Justin Katz is a writer and researcher focusing on Rhode Island policy and politics. For more about Justin, see our About page. justin@justinkatz.com (401) 835-7156.

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