EDITORIAL: Give districts more time for elections amid COVID-19

June 9 doesn't give school districts enough time to present accurate budgets, hold a complete vote
Absentee ballots being counted in 2019. This year's school elections will all be absentee
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Absentee ballots being counted in 2019. This year's school elections will all be absentee

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

Classes have been canceled for the rest of the school year.

Because the state is waiting on a possible relief package from the federal government, school districts have no firm state aid information available upon which to formulate accurate annual budgets and local tax rolls.

Because districts can’t prepare accurate budgets for the upcoming year, and because of the short time frame between now and the upcoming election, citizens don’t have much time to digest local budget information and comment on it.

School districts, local printers and the U.S. Postal Service are unprepared and understaffed to manage the full effects of the new all-mail-in voting system for school elections, meaning some ballots might not go out in time and some might not be returned in time to count.

And candidates for school board seats can’t reach as many voters as they once could in a short period of time because of social distancing.

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Given all the potential issues with the new statewide school elections, now rescheduled for June 9 due to the coronavirus situation, it’s clear everyone could use more time.

What would be the harm in moving the election back three weeks or so to give all those involved in the election more time to prepare?

School board seats don’t expire until July 1, and school fiscal years don’t start before then either. And even those could possibly be extended under the covid emergency.

The governor’s executive order setting the new date of the election and the rules was only issued on May 1.

It requires school districts to mail every eligible voter” an absentee ballot with a postage-paid return envelope.

Districts are also required to send out postcard notices detailing the date of the election, date of budget hearing, definition of qualified voter and an absentee ballot.

That’s a lot to do in less than six weeks.


Some local printers, already operating with reduced staff, could be inundated with work at the last minute and might not be able to print all the absentee ballots, especially if multiple school districts put in orders at the same time.

And if ballots and meeting notifications don’t reach voters until June 3 or 4, that gives voters only a few days to prepare their ballots and for the Postal Service to deliver them by the counting deadline.

That could mean many ballots either don’t reach voters in time or don’t get returned in time, effectively voiding that person’s vote.

If the result of delaying the election a few weeks is more people being able to participate in the election, more time for candidates to share their views with voters, and more time for the state to provide districts with accurate information so they in turn can present voters with accurate information about staffing, district programs and taxes, then why not do it?

The state presented school districts with a ridiculously short time line for preparing and presenting their budgets to voters and for holding their elections. It needs to correct this situation.

School votes are too important to trust to chance.

The state should postpone the date of the vote long enough to give districts enough time to do this right.

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