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Referendum Road Map: Answer the Right Questions to Create Sense of Urgency

Alex Mielke

One critical component in establishing a sense of urgency in the first step of the Referendum Roadmap is answering the basic questions your voters will have. In this post you will learn what questions need to be answered before any significant planning can begin.

If the voters, parents, students and staff in your District see change that is grounded in a real educational need rather than something mysterious and arbitrary, they are going to embrace it faster. Before any significant planning can begin, a number of critical questions must be answered:



      1. What challenges is the District facing that are addressed by the referendum? Determine if your challenges are specific to facilities or involve some intangible issues.
      2. What needs have been created by these challenges? Establish specific and identifiable needs to which your voters can relate.
      3. How were these needs assessed? Be ready to discuss the process that was used to identify and assess the District’s immediate and long-term needs.
      4. How are these challenges affecting the educational process in a negative way? Specific examples are important to make the challenges real to your voters.
      5. How will these challenges be eliminated or mitigated by the passage of the referendum? Develop a clear and concise way to explain how the referendum specifically addresses these challenges.
      6. How were the solution(s) to the challenges developed? Be prepared to discuss the work that has been performed by your consultants and staff.
      7. How are these challenges linked to voters, parents, students and staff? Real life examples and scenarios will drive your point home.
      8. Is the District getting the most value for their potential investment? Discuss your process for selecting your consultants and define the project life cycle costs that you have identified.
      9. Is this a long-term solution? Everyone wants to make sure, should they vote yes, that the challenges will be addressed for the future.
      10. Is the price of not passing the referendum higher than the price of change? Your voters will weigh both options.
      11. How has the District worked with these challenges in the past? Your voters want to know you have attempted to solve the challenges without the need for a referendum.

Your responses to the above questions should be answered generically enough for all to understand, but in a specific way that will accurately inform your voters. This can be tough balance, so below is a guide on how to formulate your response:

      • Begin by providing a clear and concise answer to the question, which could be as simple as “yes” or “no.”
      • Provide the reasoning for your answer.
      • Tell your audience why you answered the way you did.
      • Begin to demonstrate your thought process so the audience can begin to relate to your way of thinking.
      • Always strive to provide a real-life example to support your answer and to which your audience can easily comprehend. Your example is probably the most important component of your answer, so choose your example wisely.
      • Finally, briefly summarize by again stating your answer to the question originally given when you made your point.

Once you have these basic questions answered in a way the voters will understand, you are ready to begin the process of creating a sustained sense of urgency that will carry you through the remaining steps of the process.

Creating a sense of urgency within your community is the key beginning step in a referendum. Before moving on in the process, make sure the following questions have been answered in this beginning step:

      1. Have we started to communicate the challenge clearly to our voters or do we have a group working behind closed doors trying to define a solution?
      2. Who are the people with alternate viewpoints in our community with the attitude and power to keep voters from acknowledging or addressing the problem? What are they doing to undermine our efforts?
      3. If asked today, what percentage of our voters would agree there is a major problem that needs to be addressed by the referendum? Is that number high enough?

By answering these three key questions and creating a sense of urgency, you are on the right bath to having your community voting Yes to referendum.

Tune in next month for the third step of our multi-part blog series on  on developing a powerful coalition to guide the path to yes.

Can’t wait for the rest of the blog series? Reach out to our Referendum Expert, Alex Mielke at for the complete Roadmap to Yes.

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July 17, 2024