On Friday, Oct. 22, 263 voters cast a ballot at the Solon High School satellite voting site hosted by the county auditor. Most were locals. According to John Deeth from the auditor’s office, the party breakdown was 63 Democrats, 121 Republicans, and 79 No Party. School board is supposedly a non-partisan election yet we obsess over party affiliation. In 2019, 1,225 voters (24.3 percent of those registered) cast a ballot and two Republicans won. This cycle voter turnout is expected to be high yet about the same.
That Republicans were the largest group of voters is not surprising. Something that attracts new people to the Solon Community School District is how K-12 schools are run. The community made significant investments in school infrastructure, an attractive feature of the district. Before the coronavirus pandemic, school infrastructure was a main focus of the school board. This is both an adjustment to population growth and feeding it. When I review voter registrations of people living in newly constructed subdivisions, there are plenty of Republicans. Newcomers seem to favor Republican voter registration although I’d like to see a formal study.
We are a community where some voters cling to the Trump administration. If he ran for president in 2024 many would vote for him again. I avoid political conversations unless I know to whom I am speaking, which is typical for many. As a community we get worn out by political talk and seek to avoid it when going about our lives. When I posted a selfie wearing a Biden-Harris t-shirt on social media, a neighbor who planned to vote for them told me they couldn’t do something like that because of social connections at church, work and the schools. The new buzzwords in the community are about running the schools “for the benefit of all students.” This is code for white privilege, increasing insularity of our lives in an age of mass media, and personal disagreements with neighbors and area residents about politics.
Since the 2011 political redistricting, the northeast corner of Iowa’s most liberal county has been turning conservative. In 2012, voters in House District 73 chose a Republican state representative and reelected him four times. In my precinct 2020 voters picked the Republican congressional candidate over the Democrat for the first time since Dave Loebsack first ran for office in 2006. When we moved here there were more Democrats, yet political considerations mattered less than being some distance from work with access to good roads to get there. Good schools were also important. If I were to move again, it would be to a place where being a Democrat would be more accepted.
A local group formed a political action committee to advertise three Democratic candidates for the school board as a change slate supporting school safety during the pandemic. The satellite voting statistics can be understood as a referendum of how well that is going. The low Democratic numbers do not bode well for the Nov. 2 election. There has been a lot of Facebook activity on school board candidate campaign pages, but actual voter turnout among Democrats is lagging expectations.
Despite community uproar about changes in collective bargaining for district employees before the 2019 school board election, voters chose incumbency over change. We’ll see if that’s still the case on election day.
Editor’s note: There were two home football games at 4:30 p.m. (freshmen) and 7:30 p.m. (varsity) the day of satellite voting. The first was not well attended (it was raining). The hope was holding satellite voting at the high school during the Friday games would increase turnout. It is difficult to draw a correlation between the satellite and the games. During the 2020 election cycle, satellite voting at the public library was also well-attended with no such event correlation. I believe increased turnout at the satellite has more to do with promotion during the week immediately prior, combined with high interest in this election.
Click here for all of my coverage of the Solon School Board Election.