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Hospital bond fails amid ballot clutter

Ocala, FL - November 8, 2012
Posted on November 8 in Daily Marion Blog

Florida’s 2012 ballot was dominated by the overwhelming length and breadth of 11 constitutional amendments, achieving the passage of only 3 small impact, specialized tax relief measures. Trapped in the carnage of steep amendment losses seems to have been the local measure authorizing the sale of bonds to support the Marion Hospital District, enabling retention of high quality, cost effective Munroe Regional Health Systems which operates Munroe Regional Medical Center for the Marion Hospital District.

[Click here for the full results of Marion County’s voting in the general election.]

Was the rejection of this key local proposal a failure of the well-funded campaign in support of the bond measure? Was it voters rejecting the notion of a $5 per month additional property tax? Was it a result of a radio campaign in the last month by secretive Florida pro-corporate lobby Associated Industries of Florida (AIF)? How about none of these? Then what did it?

The hospital bond measure was declined by 43-57% of Marion voters, a solid margin of defeat.

Mail drops to voters in support of the hospital measure were frequent and high quality. But did they stand out from the rest of the campaign literature that inundated mail boxes? Perhaps not.

The radio campaign waged by AIF’s arm, a group oddly named Save Our Constitution, Inc., surely got many voters’ attention, but was it enough to achieve this kind of defeat? This also seems unlikely.

Was it reflective of voters not being persuaded that a new tax was necessary? And wouldn’t such an attitude gain a mirror in, say, presidential election voting outcomes, with Republican voters opposing and Democratic voters favoring the measure?

A look at two precincts with diametrically opposite presidential election voting outcomes should make the case. Precinct 0005 (First Christian Church, E. Fort King St., Ocala) and precinct 3700 (Church at the Springs, Baseline Rd., Ocala) fit the bill with 0005 voting 2-1 in favor of Romney, and 3700 voting 2-1 in favor of Obama. Here is a chart that includes the respective “yes” and “no” votes on the hospital bond proposal (and revised further to see how votes on Amendment 1 – the health care mandate – fit into the pattern, or not):

There is no political conclusion that can be drawn from this simple analysis. It would indicate that the outcome really had nothing to do with the campaigns for or against the bond measure.

Perhaps we can get some insight by considering the few measures that did pass.

Amendment 1 on the health care reform mandate passed in Marion 53-47%, but didn’t come close to meeting the statewide threshold of 60% now required for adoption (and failed statewide). This anti-health care reform proposal was likely well understood by voters, and apparently health care reform is not as unpopular as the media often leads us to believe.

[Click here for an article about the amendments’ performance statewide and a summary chart of voting outcomes.]

Amendments 2, 9, and 11 all passed by wide margins, locally and statewide, and they all share something in common. They were all relatively brief in text, clear in their intent to provide property tax relief, and targeted to specific populations with whom most anyone would be sympathetic; combat injury disabled veterans (2), surviving spouses of military veterans or first responders killed in the line of duty (9), and low income senior citizens (11).

All the rest of the amendments were less distinct, often with dense, obtuse language, hewing to an ideological position, or political minutiae, or obscure purpose and benefit. They failed, and most of them failed miserably.

The hospital bond measure came at the very end of the painfully long ballot – click here to see the sample ballot again. Its result mirrored those constitutional amendments that lost.

The best answer for the outcome on the hospital is the voters’ disdain for the amendments cluttering the 2012 General Election Ballot. Voters said “no” unless there was a clearly articulated purpose and a personally meaningful population. The hospital bond proposal simply got lumped in with the rest of the mess.

Marion voters even said “no” to Amendment 6 – 49-51% – the umpteenth time conservative Christian Florida voters were baited with an anti-choice proposal. Even on this topic, voters have had enough, and seem tired of being manipulated. The same can be said of Amendment 1, another narrow vote.

Unless it made clear sense, voters simply said “no” in resounding fashion in this election. Sadly and unfairly, the hospital bond measure got caught in the downdraft of negative voter sentiment toward the constitutional amendments. How very unfortunate for our community.