PW Readers Write: A very surprising number of voters


This past Tuesday, late in the afternoon, I was at our Port Library to vote on the proposed library budget for next year and also to vote for a new library trustee. I won’t hold you in suspense. I voted yes for the proposed budget and for Matthew Straus for trustee. I was the 460th resident to vote, according to a numbered sheet that one of the ladies at the voting table showed me, as I was signing in.

As I was signing in, I noticed that there were two other very large sign-in books on the table, beside the one that I was signing in on. These three books contain the names and addresses of all the registered voters in Port Washington. I guess that means that there is a voting district called Port Washington, because for sure there is no town, city or village of Port Washington in New York. There is, however, a hamlet of Port Washington in this state and I live in that hamlet.

I asked the lady in charge of the table if she knew how many registered voters there were in Port Washington. She said that she didn’t, but that in each of the three very large voter registration books, there was a page in it, indicating how many names, with addresses, there were in that book. She said that while I was away from the table voting, she would find those three pages and then would let me know what the grand total was of all registered voters in Port Washington. She did that and the figure that she gave me was 22,400. I think that she rounded the actual total a bit, but I was nevertheless very surprised by that figure. I, of course, thanked her very much for her efforts.

I believe that the population of Port Washington numbers somewhere between 32,000 and 33,000 (that’s the hamlet, 15,847, plus the populations of the four incorporated villages that are completely within our school district and our postal zip code, and plus the population of that portion of the Village of Flower Hill that is also within the Port school district and the Port postal zip code). Let’s call the population, 32,500. I’ve always guesstimated that the number of registered voters included in the maybe 32,500 inhabitants might be 14,500 to 15,500, so I was stunned when the in-charge lady told me that the number was 22,400.

If the figure of 22,400 is reasonably accurate, why is it meaningful? It’s very meaningful in connection with our school budget votes and also the voting for our school board trustees. Historically, voter turnouts for most school district votes on Long Island have been pathetically low. A turnout of 5 percent to 10 percent of registered voters may be the norm. Why is it so low? Because the voters know that the budgets are rigged, so why bother to vote? However, here in Port, we’ve thought for years that our voter turnouts for school district votes were better than “pathetic” because we believe that Port Washington is a community of well-educated and informed residents, many of whom are also community activists.

But have our voter turnouts for school district votes really been better than “pathetic”? Last May, 2,256 votes were cast for the proposed budget (yes, 1,807, no, 449). That’s a voter turnout of 10.1 percent, if there really are 22,400 registered voters here in Port. I would say that 10.1 percent certainly is a pathetic voter turnout and I know also that such a low turnout is much to the liking of our school officials.

Our school officials know that if they can get 1,500 to 2,000 PTA-HSA mothers to come out and vote, then any budget that they propose will easily be approved of. How many Port mothers turned out to vote last May? I would say that at least 1,653 did, since that’s the number of votes that were cast for Nora Johnson, to retain her seat (see below). As I’ve explained in previous messages, our school officials do everything possible to discourage voters from voting and to ensure a low voter turnout.

As for voting for school board trustees, let’s look at last year. Last May, three sitting school board members ran unopposed to retain their seats. Nora Johnson, our school board’s vice president, won 1,653 votes, the highest number of votes garnered by any of the incumbents who were running. That’s 7.4 percent of the registered voters in Port Washington. Worse is that the proposed school budget was approved of by only 8.0 percent of Port Washington’s registered voters. Pathetic is not the word to describe the results of our voting process. Can you imagine it? Our school district is being administered by people who receive 7.4 percent and LESS, of the possible votes from residents of Port Washington who can determine who administers our school district. It’s pathetic and it’s terribly undemocratic. It borders on the autocratic/despotic.

There is a message here for anyone who is now running for a seat on our school board and who has not been chosen by our Parent’s Council to sit on the board (not been chosen is someone who is not a PTA or HSA caring mother). If you are serious about trying to be elected next month to serve on our school board, then you had better get going now to find a way to energize the vast majority of registered voters in Port Washington to come out and vote for you next month.

Otherwise, you are just wasting your time and energies. You will need a serious and effective election campaign to win a seat on our school board and you must start that campaign — now.

Otherwise, you will be swamped by the two handpicked mothers who have been chosen by the Parent’s Council to fill seats on our school board. The PTA-HSA mothers are manning their phone banks now, demanding that you, a threat to budget spending, must not be elected to our school board.

Joel Katz

Port Washington 


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