Support HB 1422 – Move School Elections to General

Quick, what is the date of the School Election?

If you don’t know, that’s because those who benefit most from obscure, low turnout elections like it that way. They prefer their low turnout “informed voters” over the people’s high turnout “uninformed voters.” And whom do they consider “uninformed voters?” Easy. Those who can’t correctly answer the question above (i.e. most of us).

But, just because that’s the way it’s been doesn’t mean that’s how it has to be. Here are just some of the reasons we support HB 1422, sponsored Representative Nate Bell and Senator Jane English, which would, among other things, move school elections to the general election.

  • The local school boards of Arkansas’s 237 school districts govern the largest local government entities in Arkansas, spending over $5 billion annually in local (2/3 of real, personal property taxes), state (46% of General Revenue), and federal funds for PreK-12 education.
  • And yet, board member elections have the lowest voter participation of any elective offices in the state.
  • Arkansas school elections are held the third Tuesday of September, seven weeks before the General Election (first Tuesday after first Monday in November).
  • Each school district is required to reimburse their respective county(ies) for the costs of the School Election.
  • Cumulative school election results are not compiled by the Secretary of State’s Office, but here are samples from the State’s largest three counties’ most recent elections:
    • Pulaski
      • School Election Turnout – 2.8% (239,347 Registered Voters; 6,655 Voted)
      • General Election Turnout – 52.56% (243,861 Registered Voters; 128,162 Voted)
    • Benton
      • School Election Turnout – 3.49% (121,211 Registered Voters; 4,234 Voted)
      • General Election Turnout – 49.26% (127,008 Registered Voters; 62,568 Voted
    • Washington
      • School Election Turnout – .54% (112,113 Registered Voters; 608 Voted)
      • General Election Turnout – 47.65% (114,901 Registered Voters; 54,754 Voted)
  • According to the National School Boards Association, 53% of superintendents reported that their districts’ school board elections were always held on the same date as state and national elections.
  • 27 states hold all or most of their school board elections on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

And here’s why the Arkanas School Boards Association (ASBA), an affiliate of the aforementioned National School Boards Association, asks its members (incumbent school board members) to oppose this bill:

  • The education of our children is important enough to justify a separate election.
  • It is critical that the individuals voting in a school election have a good understanding of the issues in their school.
  • It is very possible that if the school election is held with the general election in November the outcome may be based largely on uninformed voters.
  • We fear that the school election will become lost in the process and that issues may become much more partisan.

By this logic, the ASBA believes a majority of those who elect the President, Vice President, U.S. Senator, U.S. Congressman, Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Auditor, Land Commissioner, Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, State Senator, State Representative, Circuit Judge, District Attorney, County Judge, Sheriff, County Clerk, Circuit Clerk, Treasurer, Assessor, Quorum Court, Constable, Mayor and City Council may be uninformed.

We trust that the Representatives, Senators and Governor who were elected by those whom the Arkansas School Boards Association considers to be “uninformed voters” will finally entrust our public schools to those who put them into office, instead of those precious few “informed voters” preferred by incumbent school board members and their advocates.

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