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November election showed big changes in referendums nationwide


MADISON, WI (WSAU) -  Not much changed as far as Democrats and Republicans holding political office in Wisconsin, but one group says there was a big change in one area of the fall elections... referendum results. Todd Berry is President of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

He says an unusually high number of referenda questions passed in November.  "There were 38 in this past month, and over 70% of them passed, so the rate of passage was markedly higher than you would expect on average.”

School referendums can be difficult to pass. Barry says finances are difficult in many smaller schools, but if voters believe in the project and trust in the money being wisely spent, they can get the voter’s approval.  "These smaller communities, on the one hand they're fairly frugal.  On the other hand, they really do care about their local schools and so if there's a reasonable conversation between voters and the district, so the district's being straight with them and the voters feel that, they'll respond in kind and often approve a referendum if the case has been made."

Voters around America don’t always agree on issues. Barry says politics is all local, and what works in one place may not pass in another.  "There was a big income tax on the ballot in California which passed narrowly.  It was mainly a tax increase on the high income folks.  At the same time in New Hampshire, they pretty strongly said we don't have an income tax, we don't want an income tax, and they put that in the state constitution."

He says one state even used a referendum to protect landowners from their own government.  "In Virginia, they passed a referendum that sort of puts some boundaries on the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Eminent Domain, or when government can take private property, so that was fairly unique to Virginia."

The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance says there were 38 school finance related issues on the ballot, and 70-percent of them passed. That’s over 50-percent more success than schools had two years ago.