County prepares for changes in school board elections

SIGOURNEY- In 2017, the Iowa Legislature enacted legislation that would change the way school board elections are conducted in the state of Iowa; the second time since 2007 that the legislature has done such a thing. The changes made in 2017, however, were set to not begin until 2019. The main change that attracted scrutiny was a plan to combine school board elections with city elections in November. Previously, school board elections were conducted in September, with new board members being sworn in at the first meeting after the certification of election. Keokuk County Auditor said in hindsight, while the idea was good, the legislature should have done more research on the matter.

“Theoretically I believe it is a good idea to merge school & city elections, although with that being said, legislators should have waited to enact as law until all avenues were investigated and worked out. Laws are passed and left to others to figure out the dynamics of how to actually make their expectations work,” Bates said.

One particular issue that Bates cited affects many rural counties, including Keokuk and Mahaska counties.

“Most counties have both cities and schools that cross county boundaries that cause issue,” Bates said.

That issue leads to confusion as to which county will serve as the “control county”, or county that administers the election for that respective city/school election.

One of the reasons for the change, according to legislators in 2017, was that the change would increase turnout in city and school elections. However, in Keokuk County, that may not be the case.

“School and City elections historically have a very low turnout in Keokuk County,” Bates said.

For more on this story and others, catch the July 17 edition of the News-Review.