The House voted today to move school board elections
to either May or November, on election days in years when primary or general elections are set. The vote was 59-19, with six voting present.
Elections are now generally in September, though districts have the option to hold elections in November.
The bill is touted as a way to increase voter participation. School officials have resisted the move for years, preferring to hold school elections in which people specifically interested in school officials vote.
Objections were raised to difficulties in overlaying school districts with other elections. Rep. Michael John Gray
said county clerks were neutral on this bill only because a worse bill has been filed in the Senate. Gray also suggested that, inevitably, partisan concerns would get intertwined with school elections .
This bill applies only to school board races. Separate legislation aims at tax elections.
Rep. John Walker
argued the bill was about Pulaski County and putting control of elections in the hands of people with most resources, such as the chamber of commerce. It's about "doctoring the election system" to help those who already have advantages, he said.
Rep. Mark Lowery
disputed the notion that partisan feelings would cross over into school races. He touted the big turnout at the Pulaski County School District election last November. True. It also was an election also marked by unprecedented spending by Little Rock corporate interests in the slate of candidates that dominated the election.
Lowery said virtually all states hold elections in May or November. "We'd be moving into the mainstream of wanting our electorate to be familiar with who their school boards are."