The Butler County Board of Elections certified the results of the Talawanda bond issue vote weeks ago, but community member Michael Ramsey isn’t satisfied.
Ramsey will appear at the Miami University Board of Trustees meeting Friday to argue that Miami students, especially those living on campus, should not have been encouraged to vote on the Talawanda bond issue.
Ramsey said the measure would have failed by almost 800 votes if Miami students living on campus, who vote in City of Oxford precincts, had not voted on the issue.
Ramsey says that Miami students living on campus should not vote on property tax issues.
“It’s easy to vote for something if you don’t have to pay for it … You should have to be a property owner to vote on property taxes,” Ramsey said. “I don’t have as much of a problem with people who are renting as I do with the students on campus who aren’t paying anything on these taxes.”
Ramsey and his wife rent three houses in Oxford to students, and Ramsey said they will have to increase rent if the petition fails.
“If taxes go up, I have to raise my rent accordingly and so does any other landlord,” Ramsey said.
Miami Junior Josh Oberndorf lives off campus and will likely see his rent increase next year because of the levy, but he voted for it anyway.
“I think it is very important,” Oberndorf said. “I don’t mind paying more if it helps better education in our community.”
Mary Jane Roberts, chairperson of the Citizens for Talawanda campaign, said Miami students are stakeholders in the community.
“Every person who lives in this town is affected by what happens in the school system, including Miami students-whether you are an education major who spends time in the schools or you have professors who don’t live in Oxford,” Roberts said.
Ramsey said concern about professors living in Oxford is not enough to justify Miami students voting on Issue 16.
“This school district should be able to determine its destiny on its own,” Ramsey said. “But the fact is that we do not have control of our own school district because of the Miami student vote.”
Miami music professor Ethan Sperry, who has two young children, has considered moving to a better school district.
“Our plan was to move to Cincinnati when our kids got to be of high school or middle school age,” Sperry said. “I love living here and being part of the community and really don’t want to do that, but I want my kids to get the best education available.”
Sperry said two-thirds of Miami faculty with school-aged children don’t live in Oxford.
“I don’t see how that can be good for building community,” Sperry said.
Sperry said Miami students had a right to vote on community tax matters.
“Miami students are the biggest consumers at stores and businesses,” Sperry said. “The thought that they do not have a stake in the continuing growth of the community is, to me, silly.”
Miami’s associate director of communications Claire Wagner said the university encourages civic engagement, like voting.
“(Miami) encourages students to vote and is obliged to provide them with information on registering,” Wagner said.
Ramsey is also taking his grievances to the Butler County Court of Common Pleas.
He and his wife Donna have filed a 52-signature petition to contest the election with the Court of Common Pleas, citing alleged irregularities in the unofficial results of the bond issue posted on the Board of Elections’ Web site on election night.
In his petition Ramsey alleges the net change in votes he saw reported on the Board of Elections’ Web site, between when 26 of 28 precincts were reporting and when 28 of 28 precincts were reporting, was mathematically impossible given that it was greater than the number of ballots added.
According to his petition, “This swing from 800 plus failing to passing by 458 is not possible with only 700 plus ballots being added.”
The official tally including provisional ballots and votes from Preble County gives Issue 16 a 515-vote margin of victory.
According to Jason Bunch, a technician at the Board of Elections, it is unlikely there was a problem with the vote count.
“I can’t rule out that there could’ve been some glitch in the software, but the likelihood of that is very slim given that we read all the cards twice,” Bunch said.
Bunch also said the numbers shown on election night are unofficial.
“All of the results are unofficial until we finish tabulating … we just post results to show the public what is going on at the time,” Bunch said.
Roberts said she doesn’t understand why Ramsey is contesting the election.
“He’s got a right to do what he’s doing, but we want what’s best for our kids and that’s what the community voted,” Robert said. “It bothers me that someone would continue to push an issue because the results were not the way they wanted them to be.”
When the precinct-by-precinct results were posted after the election, Ramsey noticed that City of Oxford precincts voted 76.5 percent in favor of the measure, while the surrounding townships voted 70.5 percent against it.