School Board looks for elec­tion change

Urges only early, ab­sen­tee vot­ing

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - DAVE HUGHES

FORT SMITH — The School Board is ask­ing vot­ing in the 2017 school elec­tion be limited to ab­sen­tee and early vot­ing be­cause of the lack of con­tested races and no pro­posed mill­age in­crease on the bal­lot.

The School Board passed a res­o­lu­tion Mon­day ask­ing the Se­bas­tian County Elec­tion Com­mis­sion to con­duct ab­sen­tee and early vot­ing only for this year’s school elec­tion. There would be no vot­ing on the ap­pointed school elec­tion day, Sept. 19.

The only board po­si­tions up for elec­tion in Fort Smith this year are cur­rently held by School Board Pres­i­dent Deanie Mehl and by Jean­nie Cole.

Mehl has an­nounced she is not run­ning for re-elec­tion. Fort Smith at­tor­ney Greg Mag­ness is the only can­di­date to file for Mehl’s seat. Cole has filed for elec­tion to her eighth term. The terms run for three years.

The res­o­lu­tion said the pro­posed school tax rate is 36.5 mills, the same rate the dis­trict has levied since 1987. Mehl said last month that even if the mill­age is de­feated, it would re­main at the cur­rent rate.

A mill is one-tenth of a cent. Each mill is charged against each dol­lar of as­sessed value and would there­fore pro­duce $1 of tax for each $1,000 of val­u­a­tion.

The res­o­lu­tion re­ferred to Arkansas Code An­no­tated 6-14-102(c)(1), which said if there were no mill­age changes pro­posed, a school board “may re­quest to the county board of elec­tion com­mis­sion­ers to re­duce the num­ber of polling places or to open no polling places on elec­tion day so that the elec­tion can be con­ducted by ab­sen­tee bal­lot and early vot­ing only.”

Elec­tion Com­mis­sion co­or­di­na­tor Meghan Hassler said Tues­day all other school dis­tricts in Se­bas­tian County also would limit their elec­tions to ab­sen­tee and early vot­ing this year be­cause they lack con­tested races.

If the elec­tion com­mis­sion chooses to elim­i­nate elec­tion day vot­ing, early vot­ing would take place at the Se­bas­tian County Court­house in Fort Smith and at Green­wood City Hall.

Hassler said a meet­ing of the com­mis­sion to take up the re­quest prob­a­bly will be called within the next week. A no­tice would be pub­lished if the com­mis­sion chooses to limit the elec­tion to ab­sen­tee and early vot­ing. Hassler said not hav­ing to open polling places on elec­tion day will save money, but she couldn’t say Tues­day how much.

The ab­bre­vi­a­tion of the school elec­tion will de­lay the in­tro­duc­tion of vote cen­ters, which were ap­proved re­cently for Se­bas­tian County by the sec­re­tary of state. The elec­tion com­mis­sion had planned to ini­ti­ate vote cen­ters for the school elec­tion.

Hassler said the de­lay un­til the next elec­tion, which she be­lieves will be the May pri­mary, will cause no prob­lems.

With vote cen­ters, any reg­is­tered voter can vote at any polling place in the county. Elec­tronic poll books hold iden­ti­ties of all vot­ers and have all the dif­fer­ent bal­lots on which they must vote.

In reg­u­lar vot­ing places, a per­son is as­signed to a par­tic­u­lar polling place that has the voter’s bal­lot.

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