Rep. Guy Vander Linden

Rep. Guy Vander Linden

The Iowa House has passed a bill that calls for holding school board elections in November, on the same day as city elections.

“Currently across the state, on average, school board election turn-out is seven percent. In municipal elections, on average, it’s 20 percent,” says Representative Guy Vander Linden, a Republican from Oskaloosa. “Approval of this bill will, in essence, triple turn-out for school board elections.”

The bill easily passed the House on a 61-36 vote and the majority leader in the state senate says he and his fellow Democrats have supported similar legislation in the past. But some House Democrats warn it will be too difficult for poll workers to figure out which ballot to hand a voter, since school district boundaries may be different from city council wards. Representative Mary Gaskill, a Democrat from Ottumwa, is the former Wapello County Auditor and she ran local elections.

“As we know, school districts and cities have different boundary lines,” Gaskill says. “…I cannot guarantee that people will be able to go to the precinct that they normally go to.”

Vander Linden says it will require some work for county election officials.

“The auditors who, by the way, have already been involved in writing this bill tell us that it can be done without a great deal of over-work on their part and they agree that it is well worth tripling turnout,” Vander Linden says.

The move will also save the costs of paying poll workers to conduct school board elections in September as well as municipal elections in November. Education groups oppose the move to consolidate school board elections with elections for mayors and city council spots.  School officials worry school issues may be obscured by attention to high-profile city issues.