The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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September 13, 2013

LEVINE: Election turnout disappoints again

Tuesday proved to be the same old story for school board elections.

Clinton County saw 1,564 out of 33,009 registered voters go to the ballot box. In Clinton, where six people were vying for four seats, 5.2 percent of registered voters went to the polls. If I was being an optimist, I would compare that result to the election in 2011 when only 4.5 percent of registered voters actually cast a ballot.

But in 2009, the turnout was closer to 6 percent in Clinton.

So, recent elections, going back to the mid-2000s, have hovered around 5 percent voter turnout. In the early 2000s, the number hovered closer to 10 percent.

That’s awful. But it’s not just Clinton or Clinton County. Almost all of Iowa’s school board elections register less than 10 percent.

There are many issues, one being the most glaring, that this election is not on the traditional election date in November.

Iowa code states that the election must be held in September and it doesn’t appear that legislators are too concerned with changing that election date. Clinton County Auditor Eric Van Lancker, who was frustrated with Tuesday’s turnout, said there’s no national standard for school board elections. Moving the elections could be a faint possibility, but logistics would make it difficult to pair the school board election with the city election, based on boundaries and polling locations.

Also, campaigning is done much differently than other elections. There aren’t the constant reminders from candidates about other people’s flaws during school board elections.

Like it or not, those are effective, and the constant information, like mailings, commercials and advertisements are a good way to remind people to circle their calendar.

Citizens don’t get that during school board elections. There are a few signs and the PTA held one public candidate forum. But that’s about it.

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