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Drop The 60% Rule

Editorial for February 7

Requiring a 60 percent "supermajority" vote for school tax levies to be approved is an idea that never should have been hatched. But since it was, it's long overdue to do away with it.

Last week, the Washington Legislature's House Education Committee approved a plan to go back to a simple majority of voters -- 50 percent plus one vote -- to approve school levies. Currently, 60 percent is required to pass school levies or construction bonds.

That onerous state requirement was created way back in 1944, when World War II was still raging.

It is completely unfair to impose such a rule on one particular category of ballot measure. For all other elections, whether for political candidates or ballot measures, getting at least one vote over 50 percent provides the winning margin.

There is no good reason why school levy elections are handled differently. The playing field should be level for all election campaigns.

How would politicians like it if a 60 percent supermajority was required before they could claim a win in their races? (hmmm, that might not be a bad idea ...) Well, it would make just as much sense to require political candidates to get a 60 percent vote of support before they could take office as it does to dictate that school levies need 60 percent to win.

Too often, including in the White Salmon Valley School District, we've seen voters express very strong support for their schools with a 58 or 59 percent "Yes" vote -- yet the measure fails because of this arcane hurdle. That's not right, and it's not fair.

Turn the tables for a moment and consider: What if those who opposed a certain ballot measure had to get a 60 percent "No" vote to kill the measure? That would be outrageous. Well, the 60 percent "Yes" requirement to get a school levy measure passed is equally outrageous.

If a majority of voters say "Yes" to a ballot measure, it ought to be approved. If a majority of the voters say "No," it ought to be rejected. That is what a democratic system is all about: majority rule. Not supermajority rule. Let each case be decided on the merits, up or down.

The Legislature needs to follow the recommendation of its House Education Committee, and choose the path of fairness: Eliminate the supermajority law.

JB

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