I found this card in our mail the other day. It announces a change in the election timing for the RUSD school board. In the past, we elected school board members on odd years. The last Trustee member election was November 3, 2015. In that election the school board member position that covers the University Neighborhood was in contention. It was contested by Patricia Lock Dawson and Sandra Ramirez. That was the only race on the ballot. The turnout for that election was 11.9%.
Most people aren’t that engaged in school board politics. It’s not just lack of engagement that leads to low turnout though. There is a basic scheduling problem with these odd-year elections. Often, we don’t even realize there is an election going on. The gubernatorial and presidential elections so dominate the news cycle that our little school board elections go completely unnoticed when they do finally come around. If you are busy like I am, you can easily make a decision to blow off voting; it’s only a school board election.
Changing the election schedule for local issues (bonds, referendums) and elected offices (school board, city council) to be at the same time as either the presidential or gubernatorial elections (November even years) will increase voter turnout. How much is to be seen. The 11.9% for Patricia and Sandra’s RUSD race will certainly be a thing of the past. Based on good research I would expect that voter turnouts will move to something between 40 and 70%.
Think about how quadrupling the turnout would impact who runs, and who gets elected and what policies are enacted.
Even more importantly, think about how larger turnout would impact the recently completed Riverside city council election. Would a 40 or 70% voter turnout create a more closely representative democracy?
Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.
Remember, it’s our neighborhood!