School board elections need to be in November

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Elections are a vital part of our democracy. They are also costly and not always well-attended by voters.

That’s why we believe it’s time for a change in Barnwell County.

We encourage our three public school districts to follow the example of other districts across the state by doing away with the stand-alone election that has been the norm locally for so long. It’s time to merge the annual school board elections with the general election held in November every other year.

The topic was brought up last month by Barnwell County Councilman Ben Kinlaw as he spoke during the Barnwell District 45 School Board’s meeting. He cited recent election statistics of low voter turnout as examples of why the change is needed.

For example, only 9.2 percent of voters cast ballots in this year’s April 11 school board election. That was for all three districts combined. However, 66.57 percent of Barnwell County’s registered voters participated in the Nov. 8, 2016 General Election.

That’s a BIG difference!

We won’t delve into why people don’t exercise their right to vote at every chance possible, but the fact is people do not show up in droves as they do for general elections, which have state and federal offices on the ballot.

We hope our local school boards will make this move in an effort to encourage more people to participate. After all, 90 percent of voters did not vote in the recent school board election. That’s a lot of voters.

Moving the election to the general election would encourage more people to vote, but it would also save the schools money. That equals a better use of taxpayer funds.

This year’s school board election cost $10,096.81. This was divided up proportionately among the districts with Barnwell District 45 paying the most ($4,435.70) followed by Barnwell District 19 paying $2,885.10 and Williston District 29 paying $2,776.01, according to data provided by the Barnwell County Voter Registration and Election Office.

A bulk of that cost comes from paying poll workers. A minimum of three poll workers is required for each precinct. Barnwell County has 15 precincts.

If school board elections were moved to the general election, school districts would only pay a fraction of what they currently pay as they would share the cost with municipalities and the state. The state helps pay for poll workers in general election since there are state races on the ballot.

While the savings may not be huge, saving any amount of money is helpful as districts are always looking to make sure they have enough money to educate children. Every penny certainly counts!

The change would mean school board terms would have to change from three to four years, but this can be easily worked out.

We encourage the three districts to collaborate on this matter and make this necessary change, so the necessary steps can be taken to make this happen.

It just makes sense – and cents!