Legislators passed a bill to move local elections from the spring in odd-numbered years to the fall in odd-numbered years.
The passage in the House – 64-58 – was by the slimmest of margins. The bill required 63 votes to pass. In the end, it got one more than necessary.
It’s a welcome turn of events.
The change should dramatically increase turnout in school board and city council elections, if for no other reason than the consistency of voters always knowing when the election is. Every year, an election would be held on the second Tuesday following the first Monday in November. The elections would remain non-partisan.
Hopefully, a new election date will help local candidates get their message out. Voters face election and campaign fatigue as it currently stands.
After months of being bombarded with campaign messages related to general federal elections in November of even-numbered years, local candidates must do their campaigning a few months later. Typically, city and school board candidates wait until after Christmas to campaign for local elections that occur in April. It’s a four month window – or an even shorter one if there are enough candidates for a primary.
And the candidates must do the bulk of their campaigning when the days are short and cold in the winter months.
Moving elections to the fall will allow local candidates the opportunity to knock on doors while the days are long and the temperatures are warm. The primary elections would be in August, giving candidates enough time to campaign between the primary and the general in November.
This system makes sense. The old one did not.
We do see one particular challenge, however. School board candidates could be elected in November and wait until June to be seated. As school board elections currently work, new board members are elected in April and wait a few months to take office, typically sandwiched between the end of one school and fiscal year and the start of the next.
Should boards continue the practice of swearing in new members in June, that could mean several months of lame-duck school boards.
However, that seems a small price to pay for a process that will undoubtedly draw in more voters and allow them to be better informed.