Monday, February 06, 2023

Let the specialists conduct school elections

by Daily Inter Lake
| May 15, 2022 12:00 AM

Kalispell’s School District 5 last week asked county election officials to handle future school elections — a wise inquiry given the unfortunate errors made with getting ballots to voters during the May 3 election.

In Kalispell — where voters considered a $1.5 million levy and multiple trustee candidates — some voters either received too few or too many ballots. The mistake was flagged at the 11th hour with little time for the district to adequately rectify the issue.

“Our vote was taken away,” voter Sharon Peetz told the school board.

In a resolution approved last week, the school district made the case that giving the reins to county elections officials would go a long way in preventing similar inadmissible snafus in the future.

The resolution points out that school election administrators don’t have access to a voter registration database, or proper equipment to collect and count ballots, and they aren’t equipped to train election judges.

All are valid points — simply put, they don’t have the tools or expertise on hand.

Having school officials conduct an election is like asking a mechanic to bake a wedding cake. While it’s possible they could follow a recipe and pull it off with a wrench and drain pan — there are some highly skilled mechanics in the valley — wouldn’t you rather have a trained chef in the kitchen to ensure a proper outcome for the big day?

The district’s resolution further notes that voters “inherently perceive bias” when school officials handle a school-related election. As the saying goes, the fox is guarding the hen house. That’s not to suggest any sort of nefarious activity, but perception matters.

Kalispell isn’t alone in its endeavor to have county election officials take over.

The Columbia Falls School District board of trustees approved a similar resolution last week after experiencing its own election troubles when more than 1,000 ballots weren’t mailed out. Another unfortunate error that left voters without a voice.

If the county approves the resolutions, the school districts would assume all the costs of running a school election — which is only fair. In Kalispell the estimated cost to run an election approaches $50,000.

And this isn’t uncharted territory. Missoula County conducts school elections there, and has for decades.

Maintaining the integrity of local elections is paramount, and with the valley’s exponential population growth it’s only going to become more challenging for schools to maintain the standards voters demand.

Let’s let the election specialists do what they do best so our schools can focus on providing a top-notch education.

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