Tulsans can thank Mandy Winton for saving them $130,000.
Winton, 35, was sitting in a League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Tulsa board meeting Monday night when she saw something she didn’t like.
The city of Tulsa was planning a citywide election Nov. 10 on two minor changes to the city charter. That’s it.
“It seemed like such a waste,” she said. “It bothered me a lot.”
Winton said she was troubled not only by the potential cost of putting on the election but by the potential for a low turnout.
“I didn’t like that it was being put out on an election where it was going to be 0 percent turnout,” she said. “We already battle voter turnout as it is, especially for small things like city council and school board.
“A city charter isn’t going to get people to the polls.”
So she did what upset people do these days — she let her concerns be known on Twitter. In this case, she sent them directly to her city councilor, G.T. Bynum.
— Mandy (@M_W) September 21, 2015
It worked. Bynum responded with a big thank you and Thursday night the City Council voted unanimously to cancel the election. “Mandy (Winton) saved the citizens of Tulsa thousands of dollars by tweeting,” Bynum said before Thursday’s council meeting. “It is a great example of the power of social media to make government in the 21st Century more accessible and participatory.”
So why were the charter changes on the ballot in the first place?
As Bynum explained to Winton in their text exchange, the City Council earlier this year passed a resolution setting the election when the expectation was that other issues, such as the Vision 2025 renewal, would also be on the November ballot.
Now that vote is scheduled for April, and city officials had simply forgotten to cancel the vote on the charter amendments.
What would have added insult to injury had the November vote taken place is that the charter amendments were in fact minor changes to existing city charters, essentially scrivener’s errors, not new charter items.
Unfortunately, Winton wasn’t able to get the city off the hook for every election-related expense. Tulsa County Election Board Secretary Patty Bryant said Thursday that the Election Board had already printed 45 absentee ballots and was planning to send them out Thursday.
The Election Board had not begun to print the roughly 173,000 ballots it would have needed for the November election. Had the election taken place, Bryant said, it would have cost an estimated $130,000 to conduct.
But with the election canceled, “they (the city of Tulsa) will pay for all of the expenses that they have incurred up to now,” Bryant said. She could not provide an estimate of what that cost will be.
The good news for city leaders is that they are not the only ones in Tulsa County to have to cancel an election this year. Sand Springs officials canceled their July 14 election on a utility franchise fee four days before it was to have taken place after finding an error on the ballot.
In that instance, a day of in-person absentee voting had already taken place at the Election Board.
If there was a winner in this whole episode, other than Winton, of course, it was Bynum.
Winton had nothing but praise for the councilor and the way he handled the situation.
“I want to commend Councilor Bynum,” she said. “I love that he is responsive and engaged on social media.
“This is a great example of why being engaged in the political process matters.”