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Bill would eliminate August elections

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Hagadone News Network | February 11, 2021 10:27 AM

An Idaho legislative committee voted Wednesday to send a bill to the House floor that would abolish August elections altogether.

House Bill 106 calls for an end to August elections in what lawmakers say is an unnecessary task in an overworked clerk system. Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, told the House State Affairs Committee that eliminating August elections would free up county clerks to conduct necessary tasks, including maintenance on voter rolls.

“There are three other opportunities during each year for those elections to occur,” Barbieri said. “This is giving that breathing room, that window, for the county clerks to do what they need to do to address the integrity of the election.”

August elections have traditionally been reserved for elections lacking candidates, such as levies. But levies and other bond measures can often be found in March, May and November elections. For example, levy questions for five regional school districts — West Bonner County, Post Falls, Lakeland, Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai — will appear on the March 9 ballot in Kootenai County this year.

Education officials, however, pushed back on the bill, saying the timing of an August election enables schools to properly prepare their budgets. Furthermore, officials said voter turnout is usually stronger in August than in March.

“We actually had a greater turnout in August,” said Kirk Adams, who chairs the board for the Middleton School District. “For us, not having the ability to have a levy in August would be devastating.”

House Bill 106 now goes to print before being scheduled for debate on the House floor.