School board elections canceled
All of this year's noncontested Yuma County school board races will in fact be canceled.
The school districts that have seats available in this November's election, but that drew a lesser or equal number of candidates, confirmed with county elections officials that they will not hold elections and, as allowed by law, allow the county supervisors to directly appoint the people who did file nomination paperwork for the positions.
State law allows supervisors to cancel the elections when they turn out to be uncontested. But when presented with the item on Wednesday, the Yuma Board of Supervisors decided not to nix the elections without the schools' input.
The school districts had until noon Friday to send written acknowledgement and support of their elections' cancellation to the county. Friday was the latest the ballots could be changed.
The seven districts included Yuma Union High School, Yuma Elementary, Gadsden Elementary, Somerton Elementary, Hyder Elementary, Wellton Elementary and Arizona Western College. Most either drew as many candidates as they had seats available or one less, although Somerton and Wellton attracted no candidates at all for their two-year positions.
All but Yuma Union High School District sent in written confirmation promptly, either Wednesday or Thursday. Yuma Union gave the green light on Friday morning, after a special, early morning meeting of the school board to vote on the cancellation. County elections officer Sue Reynolds said she didn't know if other districts also held special meetings, but she said that they probably didn't, based on how quickly their administrators gave the OK.
Keeping the uncontested races on the ballots would have required the county to add blank lines for write-ins — even though it is too late for any new official write-in candidates to be considered, so any names other than declared write-ins wouldn't actually count. This would have slowed down the tabulation.
The cancellations will also save the districts money. Reynolds said running an election costs between $5,000 and $26,000 just from her side of the house. This covers a range of services, such as developing a database to distribute ballots, the creation of ballots (including drafts) and the printing and mailing of sample ballots, and staffing and outfitting vote centers. It doesn't include fees from the recorder's office, which handles early voting.
Yuma Union reported that in 2010, it spent $48,501 on its governing board election: $25,901 due to the elections department and $22,600 for the recorder's office. The district budgeted $200,000 this year for governing board activities, including attorney expenses, board member travel and elections.
According to a memo attached to the short agenda for Friday's 7 a.m. meeting, “(t)he Board of Supervisors received communication from school board members concerned that governing board members are elected officials, and therefore, the electorate should have the option to vote or not vote for the nominees. If the election is held, even if the outcome is the same, the democratic process is not circumvented simply due to a lack of persons willing to be vetted by the electorate.”
The vote split, 3-2, in favor of canceling the election, but Yuma Union Superintendent Toni Badone said it was a fiscal decision — had there not been a price attached, they'd have gone ahead with the noncompetitive race out of principle.
“It was a matter of democratic principle that we both had the meeting and had the discussion,” she said. “It was a very healthy, positive discussion.”
“Realistically the board decided 3-2 to send the letter to cancel the elections since the outcome will be the same, because we've already been cut... millions and millions of dollars to the detriment of our students” over recent years, Badone added. “So even $50,000 or whatever it would have cost our district to run the election doesn't sound like a lot — we have a $54 million budget — but every penny counts in our district.”
Hillary Davis can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6857. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSHillaryDavis or on Twitter at @YSHillaryDavis.