It’s time School board elections need to change

Published 12:03 am Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mississippi’s purchase of touch-screen voting machines in 2005 brought the state’s elections into modern times but exposed a bad stitch in the patchwork of laws governing school board elections in Warren County.

Starting with agreement from the Vicksburg Warren School District, Vicksburg officials and Warren County supervisors, the hole that remains can and should be mended in a hurry.

Elections using electronic machines began smoothly enough a year after the state’s deal with Diebold Election Systems to become compliant with the 2002 Help America Vote Act.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The issue locally came with the centralization of the voter rolls and the ballot cards inserted into the machines.

Those cards formerly were generated locally.

Now, they and absentee ballots come from the state — in mid-September, when people can still qualify to run for seats on the school board. In most counties, the qualifying period starts in early August and ends in early September. Here, it goes until early October.

To remedy that, paper ballots were created by the Election Commission and used for contested school board races in 2008 and during last month’s contest in District 1. A pair of tight races two years ago in Districts 3 and 4 came off without a major hitch in voting, as did last month’s in District 1. Still, Warren County spent about $190,000 to switch from optical mark scanners to touch-screen machines, making it well worth everyone’s while to include every race on the ballot card — including the school board.

The change would lengthen campaigns for school board by a month while shortening the qualifying period. Allowing runoffs in multi-candidate races is logical, as voters here just paid to sort out an eight-candidate field for the lower-profile office of justice court. With clarity from candidates such a precious commodity, voters at least need their voting experience to be as clear and uncomplicated as possible.

Mend the bad stitch.