State eliminates February elections

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | C&G Newspapers | Published July 22, 2015

 Elections may only be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May, August or November.

Elections may only be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May, August or November.

File photo by Donna Agusti

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METRO DETROIT — Gov. Rick Snyder signed six bills June 29 amending Michigan’s election law to eliminate February elections, which supporters say will save taxpayers money.


Prior to the amendment, elections could be held on four dates in a year, which included the fourth Tuesday in February.


Now elections may only be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May, August or November. Primary presidential elections will continue to be held on the second Tuesday in March. The next primary presidential election will be held on March 8, 2016.


The House of Representatives passed the bills 93-17 in April, and the Senate passed the bills 30-7 in June.


State Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township, co-sponsored the bills and said the push for eliminating February elections was twofold. Eliminating February elections not only saves taxpayers money, but February elections also have a lower turnout of voters, so more voters will cast ballots on the issues during the other three election days, he said.


“We want to make sure people have an interest in voting at that time, and I think there isn’t as high of an interest in voting during February. They want the highest population of voters to be voting on the initiatives we have before us,” Kesto said.


Jennifer Smith, director of government relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards, said the association opposed the series of bills because its members wanted to keep “as many dates as possible for the flexibility of their elections.”


In February 2014, the West Bloomfield School District held an operating millage renewal election that cost $50,000. Superintendent Gerald Hill said that while eliminating the February elections will save the district and taxpayers money, since they won’t have to pay for a special election, February elections worked better for the district when it came to planning the budget.


“That would be my only concern. We would have to do some more advance planning for the budget cycle,” Hill said. “We can live with it. There’ll be three opportunities … and it will just impact the timing. We might have to do (an election) a year earlier if (we’re) trying to renew levies, or those type of issues.”


Another concern that opposers of the bills had was that by reducing the number of available election days, the ballot length could increase. And because “education questions seem like an afterthought,” especially on a presidential ballot, ballot fatigue sets in and sometimes voters don’t even get through the whole ballot unless they’re looking for the issue, Hill said.


Kesto, on the other hand, said that while the ballot may lengthen, he thinks voters will be able to make an educated vote if they know of the issue beforehand.


“At least they get to vote on the issue, versus not knowing when the issue is and not really caring that the issue is lower on the totem pole,” Kesto said. “I think it’s a good law that just got enacted. I look forward to seeing the outcome and saving the taxpayers money.”


West Bloomfield Township Clerk Cathy Shaughnessy said the amended law will affect her department not because of a township race, but because the department has conducted February elections in the past.


“I think it’s good they’re limiting. … We just get random school elections (in February). … It costs taxpayers a lot of money. I think it’s a good move because it’s going to save taxpayers money.”

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