District 200 Schoolboard to vote to move elections to even years

By Graham Johnson
Posted 6/19/24

At the June 26 District 200 school board meeting, school board members will vote on whether or not to move schoolboard elections to even years in order to be able to have school board elections run …

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District 200 Schoolboard to vote to move elections to even years

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At the June 26 District 200 school board meeting, school board members will vote on whether or not to move schoolboard elections to even years in order to be able to have school board elections run concurrently with county, state and federal elections.
This move stops districts from having to put on their own elections during odd years for which they are solely responsible for the costs and the races often have poor voter turnout.
Across Minnesota, more and more school districts have made the switch to even year elections, in part due to the increasing complexity and therefore cost of elections.
Communications Director for the Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA), Greg Abbott, noted the 2002 bill the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) as a turning point for election complexity.
HAVA came as a response to the issues within the 2000 election and sought to both standardize voting systems as well as establish minimum election administration standards. Part of those standards were to make voting more accessible.
HAVA among other changes mandated that elections have equipment to help the visually impaired vote. This change required elections to have optical scan voting systems which were costly to buy and rent. Since that time, elections have only become more complicated and expensive with early voting, absentee, and other options available and required when putting on an election.
Before HAVA, “they weren’t as costly because you were using paper ballots. Your costs were printing ballots and paying election judges,” said Abbot.
Currently in Minnesota, only 29 school districts still have odd-year elections, down from a nearly even split in 2002.
“That’s become a trend over the last decade,” said Kirk Schneidawind, Executive Director of the MSBA.
When school board elections run alongside county elections, they are able to use the existing county election infrastructure. According to Dakota County Director Michelle Blue, “It is no work at all to the county,” to add school board elections to larger elections.
School board elections often have different polling places as compared to even year elections. Blue noted that combining school board elections and even-year elections can simplify the confusion of where voters can vote in each election.
When making the switch to even year elections, school boards are faced with the decision of how to make that jump. Boards can either decide to extend their own terms to the next even year or create two three-year terms in order to bring the elections to even years moving forward. According to Abbott, an overwhelming majority of districts that have made the shift chose to extend current board member’s terms.
Not everyone is in support of the change, however.
According to Abbott, the main defense of odd year elections even back in 2002 was to create distance between local school board elections and partisan politics. Many have worried that as even local races become more polarized, putting them on the same ballot as higher priority elections will exacerbate that process.
Former school board member Lisa Hedin agrees: “I’m opposed to even year elections because they are painfully partisan.”
According to School Board Chair Carrie Tate, at the June 4 work session, the board created two separate motions on moving forward on this issue because, “we really don’t know which way we are going to go on this.”
The next Dist. 200 school board meeting will be held on June 26, 2024 at 6 p.m. in the Hastings Middle School.