By Ida B. Torn
The nationwide sentiment of the general public’s disdain for excessive polling and robocalling came home to roost in Natchitoches Parish this past Tuesday when the School Board’s bond initiative failed by 27 votes.
Superintendent Dale Skinner placed the failing of the initiative at the feet of John Winston and the Natchitoches Voters and Civic League, which actively campaigned against the initiative by sending out sample ballots encouraging residents to vote against it. While Mr. Winston and his group should take some of the blame, Mr. Skinner should also acknowledge his own role in its failure. Mr. Skinner used the School Board’s parent phone list and bombarded people with a robocall regarding the election. While it is quite possible that Mr. Skinner’s actions were a violation of law, it certainly was an abuse of the School Board’s policy for using the auto-dial system. According to the Student Enrollment Form (see attachments below), the auto-dial system is to be used only for notifications regarding tardiness, attendance, disciplinary actions, grades and events. I’ve never heard of an election qualifying as a student event!
Shortly after the robocalls began, residents took to Facebook to voice their consternation at the abuse. Below is a post made by one recipient documenting the excessive calls and a list of people who have indicated that they voted against the initiative as a direct response to the excessive robocalls.
There is no way of knowing if the initiative would have passed had Mr. Skinner not chosen to abuse his position of power. One thing is clear, though. From national all the way to local levels, political pundits are going to have to formulate a new game plan on how to reach and read the mood of the electorate.
The age of robocalls is dead.