Mercer Island users of the social media site Nextdoor.com were tricked this weekend into voting against the school district’s Replacement Educational Maintenance and Operations Levy by a fraudulent online campaign intended to protect the job of mythical school district employee Stanley Levy.
“HAVE YOU SEEN THE SIGNS AROUND THE ISLAND????!!!!!” began the campaign’s initial posting, continuing, “They say, ‘Keep Mercer Island Schools Strong… Replace Levy.’ Why is everyone picking on Mr. Levy?! As lifelong residents and concerned citizens of Mercer Island, we urge all voters to reject this ballot proposition. We love Mr. Levy and can’t understand how anybody would think that replacing him would keep our schools strong.”
This post was quickly followed by a series of posts claiming that a Mr. Stanley Levy was three-time winner of Mercer Island Educator of the Year, had personally built the I-90 lid in his spare time, and was planning to turn his north end property into a free parking lot for Mercer Island commuters. The posts were authored by Nextdoor users named “Anton Mercer”, “Johnny Mercer”, and “Dale Mercer”, none of whom represent known Island residents. These user accounts have since been closed.
Long time, active users of Nextdoor quickly took the bait, providing supportive comments on these posts. “First it was the recycling center, then it was the old Boys & Girls Club, and now somebody’s trying to replace Levy,” said one Islander, adding, “Why can’t we keep the Mercer Island the way it has been for the last fifty years?” Said another: “I’ve had enough. I’m never voting in favor of anything again.” A third person proposed drafting Stan Levy as a candidate in next year’s city council election.
While the identities of the people behind this fake campaign have yet to be determined, suspicion is falling on students at Mercer Island High School. “Two weeks ago, we had [local Nextdoor users] convinced that the Mercer Island Library was closing for good,” said an MIHS student who claims to know the perpetrators. “That got ugly fast. Fortunately, Nextdoor users moved on, and are now preoccupied arguing about how to put their ballots in the drop box at the Community Center.”
Asked to comment on the campaign against the replacement levy, a school board director responded, “The social media reaction to this ‘campaign’ demonstrates precisely why it is so important for us to invest in the education of our children. We are fully committed to the proposition that, with our continued efforts, Mercer Island will some day have an intelligent and informed electorate.”