One of the legislative efforts that some observers think may resurface during the wrap-up session that begins April 30 is a bill that would move local elections for school board and city offices from April to November.
This is a bad idea that didn’t get any better as it moved through the Kansas Legislature.
The original proposal was to move local elections, including those for Lawrence City Commission and school board — to November in even-numbered years and to force candidates in those elections to run with a party affiliation. Promoters of the plan said it would increase voter participation in local elections for two reasons: State and national elections would draw more voters to the polls, and making local candidates run as Republicans, Democrats or some other affiliation would offer some guidance to voters who didn’t know much else about the candidates.
After hearing protests throughout the state, legislators ditched the terrible idea of turning local elections into partisan contests. People like the current non-partisan nature of local elections and don’t want important local elections to get lost amid party politics.
However, the idea of moving those elections to November hasn’t died. The latest proposal is to move local elections to November in odd-numbered years, which makes even less sense than the original proposal. The local elections still would stand alone so any voter-turnout advantage that would be gained by pairing them with state and national elections would be lost — and all the other drawbacks remain. The bill calls for an August primary, which would stretch the campaigns for local officials out over several months instead of the relatively compact schedule they have now. It also raises other questions. School board members now take office on July 1. Would they be elected in November and not take office for seven months? How would the switch affect the business of city governments?
It’s frustrating that more voters don’t cast ballots for the local city and school officials who will make the decisions that most affect their everyday lives, but none of the changes that have been considered in this legislative session are an improvement on the current system. Rather than make things worse, legislators should leave this issue alone.