Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Action Needed on Elections Bill

Why Change Kansas School Board Elections?

Over 200 locally elected boards of education in Kansas (more than 2/3) have passed resolutions against moving elections to the fall and making them partisan. These board members govern what Governor Brownback called the “5th best schools in the country” and spend less than any state ranked higher in student achievement. What are we trying to fix?

Last year the Kansas Legislature passed a law that required mail ballots in school district Local Option Budget elections. Kansas election officials estimate that mail ballots can increase voter participation by a factor of three (300 percent). No legislation to try mail ballots for local elections has been forwarded this year. Why aren’t we considering this fix?

Some party politicians in Topeka are pushing hard for moving school board elections from the spring of odd numbered years to the fall of even numbered years. According to the last KASB membership survey, nearly 70 percent of school board members self-identify as Republicans compared to 45 percent of the general electorate. What are we trying to change?

The Kansas Secretary of State has lobbied to move school board elections to the fall of even numbered years and to make them partisan to increase voter turnout. The Kansas Secretary of State has also argued that voter fatigue causes significant ballot drop-off and therefore Kansans need a straight party ballot. He testified that the drop-off from president to national senate and congressional votes is over 60,000 votes. What about voter fatigue?

Many Kansas elections are decided in the primary. In 2014, 50 Kansas House of Representatives candidates ran unopposed in the general election. Voter turnout in primary elections last year was about 20 percent. Thirty percent of Kansans are not affiliated with a party and are excluded from voting in primaries. Does focusing on primary elections increase turnout or exclude voters?

Please contact your legislator and ask these questions now! A bill is awaiting consideration right now. Act today! Call Your Representative and Senator!

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