House revives bid to axe August school elections

The Idaho House amended an elections bill Friday so that it would eliminate Idaho’s August election date, when school districts sometimes run bond and levy requests.

A standalone proposal to do just that passed the House in February, but it later died in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

But Friday, Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, who made the initial push to stop August elections, requested that Senate Bill 1061, which would change election deadlines, be amended to strike the August election date entirely. That bill had passed the Senate unanimously, absent Barbieri’s amendment.

The amendment passed on a voice vote, but not without meeting some friction from Democrats.

“Here we go again,” said Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, opposing the amendment. “This is one of four times that schools truly get to talk to their voters in a year. … There are issues in city and school budgets that sometimes need to be addressed. And for our cities and our schools, I think this is a disservice.”

Barbieri first championed the change as an election integrity reform, one that would give officials more time to clean up voter registration lists in between elections. He advocated for it alongside Secretary of State Lawerence Denney’s office.

Said Barbieri Friday, “This is an opportunity for the clerk to really concentrate on training and making sure their voting rules are proper. Integrity is so important that it’s not unreasonable given the number of elections we have during the year to eliminate one. … There’s plenty of opportunity for any of these levies and other fundraising bills to be presented to the voters.”

Rep. Vito Barbieri

School elections are currently held in March, May, August and November.

The Idaho School Boards Association, Idaho Association of School Administrators and many school leaders opposed Barbieri’s past effort, saying the election date is an important tool for schools to pass bonds or levies to stave off midyear spending cuts, Idaho EdNews previously reported.

From 2014 through 2019, a small minority of bond and levy requests were made during August elections, and those that were succeeded slightly less often than those decided in March and May, according to an Idaho EdNews analysis. Around one tenth of those elections occurred in August over the five-year span.

The bill will be bounced back to the other side of the rotunda —  where some lawmakers already killed an attempt to scrap August elections.

Blake Jones

Blake Jones

Reporter Blake Jones covers the politics and policy of Idaho's K-12 public school system. He's a lifelong Idahoan, and holds degrees in Creative Writing and Political Economy from the College of Idaho. Follow Blake on Twitter @jonesblakej. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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