Charter allows school district to avoid changing election dates

Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013 8:57 PM
Last updated Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 12:33 AM
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While a recent change in state law moved Richmond County’s 2014 nonpartisan elections from the November ballot to the summer primaries, school board races escaped the change because of a quirk in the district’s charter.

The passage of a 2012 Re­pub­lican-backed bill pushed all local races such as the school board, mayoral and commission to the date of the state primaries in July, reportedly to alleviate overcrowding on the general election ballot.

Although the Richmond County Board of Education is nonpartisan, board attorney Pete Fletcher said board members had the option to keep their race in November because the school system’s charter predates the 1877 Georgia Con­sti­tution.

Richmond County is one of only about four school districts in the state to have such an old charter, giving them the authority to keep their races in November, according to Angela Palm, Georgia School Boards Association director of policy and legislative services. Out of 180 districts, 104 are nonpartisan and were faced with moving elections from the fall to the summer, Palm said.

“Very few had the option of not following the state law,” she said.

Richmond County Board of Edu­cation members voted unanimous­ly Dec. 3 to keep their races in No­vem­ber, although they could have voluntarily moved to the summer.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” said board President Venus Cain.

However there is still wide disagreement on how moving local races to the summer will affect voter turnout and minority participation.

According to Board of Elections data, the November 2012 general election had a 73 percent turnout in Augusta compared to the 35 percent for the July general primaries.

The U.S. Department of Justice originally objected to the change in election dates. But after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the Voting Rights Act section that required Justice preclearance this summer, it allowed Augusta to follow the new law change.

“This is a ploy to keep the number of people voting down,” said Lowell Greenbaum, the chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party. “Then the wrong people get elected.”

Greenbaum said voter participation is crucial because of the impact local races have on a community. He said the board of education’s decision to keep its races in November will only help the democratic process.

Dave Barbee, Richmond County Republican Com­mittee member, however, said he fears the school board races will be buried under the governor, U.S. senate and attorney general races on the ballot in November.

With these more high-profile statewide races on the ballot, Barbee said the media and public will pay less attention the school board contests.

“A nonpartisan election gets pushed to the bottom of the ballot, even after the questions,” Barbee said. “You’ll probably wind up with the same people on the (school) board that have been there for years, because it gets lost in the maze.”

Even if voters now know which races they’ll see in the summer, they still don’t know exactly when they’ll go to the polls.

The federal primaries are scheduled for May 20, and the legislature will decide early next year whether the July 15 state primaries will be moved to join the federal races – which would push the qualifying period for all races from the end of April to March.

“There are still a lot of moving parts,” said Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey.

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soapy_725
43672
Points
soapy_725 12/15/13 - 11:08 am
1
0
More and more election dates. Opportunities for fraud.
Unpublished

More and more election dates. Opportunities for fraud.

soapy_725
43672
Points
soapy_725 12/15/13 - 11:09 am
1
0
It is not who votes, but who counts the votes--Josef Stalin
Unpublished

It is not who votes, but who counts the votes--Josef Stalin

dichotomy
31932
Points
dichotomy 12/16/13 - 12:24 am
2
0
Who the heck pays attention

Who the heck pays attention to school board races when you are paying attention to president, governor, senator, house, etc., etc., etc.

Moving local, non-partisan elections to a date different from the November elections gives people a chance to actually look, listen, and think, about who they are electing to these positions. The Augusta Commission and the RCBOE are PRIME examples of why we should hold our elections for local officials separately from the national and state elections.

Most of us get so wrapped up in presidential elections and partisan politics that we don't even know who or why we voted for someone to be on the school board and even the county commission.

The RCBOE basically just didn't want to change because it was a Republican initiative. If Obama had said do it, they would have voted to change it the next day.

Little Lamb
45146
Points
Little Lamb 12/16/13 - 09:26 am
0
0
I Agree

Fletcher's argument may be sound legally, but Dichotomy is correct from the viewpoint of having people pay attention to who is running for school board trustee.

And I want to remind Trustee Venus Cain — in many aspects, RCBOE is broke. It might be good to try an election date in the summer.

griff6035
3944
Points
griff6035 12/16/13 - 09:29 am
0
0
Term limits

Put term limits on School board members. Set it up like the US Senate, 1/3 of the members would be reelected every 2 years.

Darby
24944
Points
Darby 12/16/13 - 11:01 pm
1
0
"“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,”

said board President Venus Cain."

.
Trouble is, Ms Cain, it couldn't be more broken!!

In November, those down the ballot races are the ones most frequently left unchecked by voters interested in voting for the big names at the top of the list.

Darby
24944
Points
Darby 12/16/13 - 11:02 pm
2
0
"“This is a ploy to keep the number of people

voting down,” said Lowell Greenbaum"

.
Poor old Lowell... if he didn't have his paranoia to fall back on, he'd have nothing.

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