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Bill seeking to combat low turnout for school elections moves to Senate

A bill that legislators hope increases voter turnout for school board elections took a step forward this week. Senate Bill 66, which would require school boards to include information related to school district elections in school board minutes, ...

School supply photo illustration. (Matt Gade/Republic)
School supply photo illustration. (Matt Gade/Republic)

A bill that legislators hope increases voter turnout for school board elections took a step forward this week.

Senate Bill 66, which would require school boards to include information related to school district elections in school board minutes, was approved by the Education Committee in a 5-2 vote and now moves to the Senate floor for review.

The bill would require districts to include the total number of registered voters at the date of cutoff for voter registration, how many people voted in the election, the percentage of people who voted in the election and if the election was held in conjunction with municipal elections or primaries.

The goal of the bill, according to its main sponsor Sen. Jim Bolin, is to generate more interest in school district elections, as turnout for such elections is historically lower than city elections.

"If I had to summarize this bill, I'd summarize it in four words: More information, easily accessible," said Bolin, a Canton Republican. "... It will demonstrate to the public, at least in a small way, the fact that not many people at the current time vote in school board elections."

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The Associated School Boards of South Dakota, however, opposes the bill. It is the only current education-related bill the organization opposes, according to its website.

During Tuesday's hearing, ASBSD Executive Director Wade Pogany said there is no evidence that shows including the information in school board minutes would increase voter turnout. Pogany also said it would be an unnecessary mandate for schools, already weighted with rules and regulations.

"To put more mandates on schools for no reason other than it's a good idea ... I'm asking the question, what is our outcome here? What are we trying to accomplish in doing this?"

South Dakota Newspaper Association Attorney Justin Smith countered, saying the bill serves as a good move to promote transparency among South Dakota school districts, as many people turn to school board minutes published in newspapers for information.

Related Topics: EDUCATIONSCHOOL BOARD
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