Governor Signs Bill to Move All School Elections to November
School districts will no longer have a choice on when to hold board elections.
Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill this week that amends the Michigan Election Law to require school board elections to coincide with general November elections.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, election of all school board candidates must take place in November of even-numbered years to coincide with local, state and federal general elections.
"Utilizing a standard election cycle will cut administrative costs and help schools maintain focus on educating students," Snyder said in a press release Tuesday. "This change also allows for more consolidated elections so voters have the best opportunity to make their voices heard."
In May, Utica Community Schools spent more than $90,000 when it held school board elections for three open positions on the odd year.
Chippewa Valley, L'Anse Creuse and New Haven districts also held May elections, with Chippewa Valley and New Haven filling two seats and L'Anse Creuse only one.
Less than 10 percent of percent of voters cast ballots in Chippewa Valley and Utica's May elections, with less than 5 percent of voters visiting the polls for L'Anse Creuse and New Haven.
Supporters of the election change say the law will also help boost voter turnout for school elections, which are historically lower than general elections.
However, Chippewa Valley school board President George Sobah said he is against the move to November.
"Although it is good to include as many voters as possible, the problem with this is the majority of people who vote in the general election are unfamiliar with schools and only vote as to what name sounds good to them at that time," he said. "School board elections were historically held separately because it was felt that the people who came out to vote had educated themselves on the issues of their school district and knew what the candidates stood for.
"So I guess the question is which is better, the masses to vote or a voter educated on the issues? This is just one more way this government is eroding local control for school districts."
The dates when Michigan municipalities and school boards could hold elections were consolidated a few years ago and gave school districts a few options to choose from. The new law takes those regulations even further.
UCS Board of Education President Dr. Carol Klenow had said the board made the decision several years ago to run elections on odd years when the schools were given the choice between November or May. She said it made the most business sense.
“Our particular district opted for the May date because we believe it's most closely aligned with the fiscal year,” she said.
The Michigan Education Association has also released a statement opposing HB 4005.
“What these new laws really do is again strip school boards of local control and make school board elections more political, with school district business being lost in other issues,” the statement said.