Delaware Public Media

Group fears low voter turnout in School Board elections

May 3, 2018

Residents across the state are supposed to head to the polls for school board elections next Tuesday.  But one organization is concerned voters won’t show up.

Education non-profit Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now, or DelawareCAN, released research this week showing low school board election turnout in the past few years.

According to DelawareCAN founder and director Atnre Alleyne, turnout can be as low as roughly 1% of registered voters in a district.

“That number does not speak to the values and the desire that we have to see all of our students succeed and have a high quality of education,” he said.

So DelawareCAN launched its “Who Runs Our Schools” campaign.

It’s an effort to educate Delaware voters about the people serving on and running for school boards. Lack of awareness is the biggest barrier to voter turnout, says Alleyne.

The campaign’s website hosts profiles of school board members and candidates.

Alleyne says there are other “structural” barriers to school board voter turnout. For example, he notes elections are held on a seemingly “random” Tuesday in May, and voting starts at 10am, rather than 8am like many other local elections.

He supports the bill that passed the Delaware House this week, moving the start time for voting two hours earlier. The bill has yet to pass the Senate, and won’t affect school board elections next Tuesday.

 

And Alleyne says DelawareCAN’s efforts are not limited to school board elections.

“We’d like to start to think about how can we connect people to their boards all year long, in a way that makes it a natural extension in May to go vote.”

Alleyne also supports legislation introduced in Dover that would reduce school board terms from the current 5 years to 4.  But he’d prefer just 3 years, so residents get more chances to choose their representatives.

There are contest school board races in 9 school districts next week.

DelawareCAN was launched in 2017 as a local chapter of the national organization 50CAN.