We’ve supported the notion for years — school board elections belong in the fall election cycle. Non-partisan school board spring elections tacked onto partisan primary elections were confusing to voters.
Medora Community Schools elections have always been in November, while Crothersville and Seymour school elections had taken place in May.
A decision by the Indiana General Assembly last year brought some long-awaited common sense to the state’s election process.
Simply by requiring all Hoosier counties to include school board candidates on the November ballot, the legislators have brought some needed relief to workers in voter registration offices around the state.
They’ve also made simpler a complex provision in the state law regarding the voting rights of 18-year-olds. Under that provision, those who are 17 at the time of the May primary elections but who will turn 18 for the November general election can vote in the primary. That’s because party candidates aren’t elected until November.
However, many school board candidates previously have been elected in the May vote. As a result, the 17-year-olds could vote in the race involving members of the political parties but not for the school board candidates. That restriction had forced voter registration officials to make up a separate ballot for the 17-year-old voters that did not contain the school board races.
Needless to say, the result was an exercise in frustration and incomprehension for both the young voters and election officials.
By removing that particular onus, the General Assembly did much more than ease the workload of election officials and show young voters that older adults can be rational. One of the most important effects of this simple change in procedures is that it elevates school board elections to their proper position of importance in the electoral process.
While important for the individual political parties, the primary elections are methods of selecting party nominees for the ultimate contest in November.
Most primary elections are ho-hum affairs that involve few real competitions. As a result, voter participation is usually markedly lower than the general election in November when the officeholders will be officially chosen.
Yet in that lethargic atmosphere of the primary election, voters have been asked to select individuals for positions that have a direct effect on the most important commodity of any community — the education of their children.
The presence of this important choice in a partisan competition has long been out of place.
Voter participation has traditionally been higher in general elections, in large part because they represent the final choice for those who will be setting important policies.
That’s where the school board process has belonged for several years. The decisions made by school board members can be just as important, if not more so, than those made by the political party candidates who have been elected in November.
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