WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Statewide voter participation for school district budgets more than tripled during the COVID-19 lockdown in June.
In fact, some districts in the north country saw 5 to 8 times as many voters cast ballots.
According to a report released Thursday by the New York State Office of the Comptroller, 1.6 million people across the state voted after in-person voting was temporarily suspended and replaced with absentee ballots.
Four north country school districts saw some of the largest jumps in voter participation in the state.
According to the report, the Watertown City School District saw an 800 percent increase in voters. In 2019, 406 people went to the polls. This year, 3,655 people voted by mail.
The South Jefferson Central School District saw voter participation surge by 578 percent, with 1,776 people casting ballots. The year before, 262 people voted.
The report says the Massena Central School District’s voter participation was 529 percent higher than the year before, with 2,490 people mailing in their ballots, compared to 396 in 2019.
In the LaFargeville Central School District, 566 people voted this year, compared to 92 in 2019. That’s a 515 percent increase.
Historically, participation in school district budget votes has been relatively low and, statewide, declined steadily since the implementation of the property tax cap. The tax cap was first effective in the 2012-13 school year, generally limiting levy increases to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, with some exceptions.
The increase in participation statewide did not result in an increase in the number of budget defeats, according to the report.