Legislation that’s been signed into law by the governor will streamline elections in Iowa, saving taxpayers money. School board elections are currently held each September, but starting in 2009 they’ll be held every other year.
Secretary of State Michael Mauro is the state’s commissioner of elections. "Obviously we know that cuts the costs in half for sure and we think that the possibility of turnout might be better. It’s certainly not going to be worse and it’s going to save lots of money," Mauro says. School board members currently serve three-year terms and starting in September of 2009, Iowans will elect school board members to four-year terms.
"This isn’t something unique to Iowa. We researched this…Most states across the country don’t hold annual school elections," Mauro says. "…I can understand where the school districts are coming from, maybe not wanting to relinquish their yearly deal, but I think once it gets in place, it’s going to be good for everybody."
The new election law saves money on another front by limiting when voting for school bond issues, gambling referendums and other "special elections" may be held. Those kind of "special elections" will be restricted to just four dates annually. Mauro says it’s gotten to the point that on just about any Tuesday, there’s a special election being held somewhere in the state. As a result of this new law, special elections must be scheduled on one of just four Tuesdays in a year.
Before he was elected Secretary of State, Mauro was Polk County Auditor and ran elections in Iowa’s biggest county. "I can tell you from my experience as county auditor, I (saw) this over and over again, many elections were held hoping that no one would show up and trying to keep ’em under the radar screen," Mauro says. "Those were strategies put in place in an election process that I can’t blame them for the strategies, but as election commissioner as somebody that’s got to promote elections so that everybody can participate…This will do that."
Finally, the new law also allows county election officials to establish "voting centers" for special elections or school board elections. "It would allow county commissioners at their discretion and working with the schools and cities to set up voting centers where they can consolidate their precincts," Mauro says. "Voters would be able to go to any voting center within that particular jurisdiction." So, there’d be even more savings as county auditors would be paying fewer election workers if precincts are consolidated.