Combining school, general elections sought to save money

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Capital News Service
LANSING — Legislators for Crawford County have won passage of bills that supporters say would increase turnout and lower the cost of school elections, but not everyone agrees that combining elections is a good idea.
A multipackage of bills has passed the Senate and will be debated in the House this fall. Each bill is aimed at moving school elections to the fall when the general elections take place, said Gary Henderson, chief of staff for Sen. George McManus, R-Traverse City.
Henderson said that getting the bills passed would make people more involved in school elections.
“We need to get more people to the polls and having school elections in June or July just isn’t doing that,” Henderson said.
According to the Secretary of State, 58.2 percent of registered voters went to the polls in the 2000 presidential election. That compares with a 7.75 percent voter turnout in the June election for the Crawford AuSable school district, said Mike Dunckel, business manager for that district.
Dunckel said he thinks that combining elections won’t work.
He said figuring out who would vote in which district would be hard because there are seven school districts in the county and only three in the Crawford AuSable system. For example, parts of Kalkaska are in the Crawford AuSable school district, but Kalkaska is not part of Crawford County.
“We already have trouble with figuring out who’s qualified to vote where,” he said.
Dunckel said that if elections are combined, schools will have to be redistricted to fit neatly into counties, or each county will need to create more than one ballot for voters in the same county, but different school districts.
Henderson said schools would save time and money if they had their elections in the fall because the townships would run them. He added that he’d like to see schools be able to spend more of their money in the classroom.
Dunckel said he hasn’t heard anything about the township or county absorbing the costs of a school election. He added that right now the schools reimburse the county for any work they do on school elections.
Sandra Moore, chief election official for the Crawford County clerk, said she hasn’t heard who would pay for the combined elections either, but said she would check into it.
The regular session of the Senate and House begins on Sept. 17 and Henderson said supporters of the bill hope to have it passed before the Legislature adjourns in December.
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism

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