Ready for a half-year of serial balloting?
Voters will elect municipal leaders and consider school millages in a number of Southeast Michigan districts Tuesday, three months before Aug. 7 statewide primaries to nominate candidates for Congress, the legislature, courts and county offices. Those seats get filled Nov. 6.
Springtime votes are needlessly costly and inconvenient, critics say, particularly now that a 2011 state law moves all school board elections to the first Tuesday in November of even-numbered years — coinciding with the selection of a president or governor.
That move is intended to reduce "the number of election dates so as to provide more consistency and predictability for potential voters," state Joan Hunault of the state House Fiscal Agency writes in a Legislative Analysis of bills Gov. Rick Snyder signed last November.
Yet school boards, city commissions and township boards still can hold votes on the first Tuesday of May in any year.
Those doing so this spring include Bloomfield Hills (two commission seats, $58.6-million high school construction bond proposal), New Baltimore and Chesterfield Township (half-mill recreation millage for Aquatic Center), Brighton Area Schools ($88.4-million bond question), Hartland Consolidated Schools (18-mill property tax renewal) and Fenton Schools ($9.6-million bond measure).
By contrast, Dearborn and 108 other public school districts (out of 550 in Michigan) submit millage proposals in November to piggyback with the general election. Now that education boards can't be elected in spring, other votes may be the next consolidation target.
Arguments from each side follow.
Advocates of fewer elections say
- Multiple voting dates reduces turnout.
- Combined votes are cost-effective.
- Voters are more attentive in fall.
Defenders of current setup say
- Local-only ballots draw informed voters focused on issues.
- School and local issues deserve separate, close scrutiny.
- Important choices get buried at end of long ballots.