Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Musings on a Tuesday

It's Tuesday, and a good time for election-day related post.

The theme, though, is fairly tired, but heating up nonetheless.

Tomorrow, there will be a bill heard in the Kansas Senate regarding the movement of spring elections to the fall of even years.

Last week, I testified in the House related to a different bill, one related to an issue I've been advocating--a school holiday for election day so that schools can be used as polling places in an era where parents worry more and more about their children's safety outside of their home.

Hopefully, these two bills will converge, so that, at least, as the merits of moving the elections to the fall, at all, or even or odd years, will have the backdrop of schools as polling places.

A discussion during the testimony in the House also captures my thinking for the Senate bill.

In the House, I was asked if schools required to be polling places was a "nice to have" or a "must have" going forward.

My opinion, I stated, is that there is always a way, always another solution.  I want schools to be polling places, and we need 100 more in 2016 than we had in 2014.  That's not likely to occur, even if we have this bill as law, but it is much more likely than if no action is taken.

Without this, we'll manage.  The election will be conducted, maybe with longer lines, likely with more advance voting sites, higher rent paid for sites, and with more staff expense. 

I'd like to say it was a must have, I testified, but there are other alternatives, just much more costly alternatives.

That's my same view with the move of elections to the fall of even years.

I prefer, for many reasons already stated in this blog, the move of elections to the fall of odd years.  That way, voters will become accustomed to voting every August and November, every year, and turnout likely will increase over time as the predictably of elections

The climate feels like it is favoring a move to even years--the Senate Bill certainly looks that way and the Senate committee chair, Mitch Holmes, is well-respected and has worked hard to be extremely inclusive in the development of the bill.

If it passes, costs will be higher.  We will need more full-time staff, and have provided that information to the committee.

But that's it.  We'll manage, regardless of where this all falls.  Elections will be conducted, again, just at higher cost.

I expect a lot of emotion and energy expended in the coming month on the move of elections.


If the current April election turnout--usually more than 10 percent and less than 20 percent, is acceptable to policymakers, then it makes no sense for any legislative action.

If the turnout is desired to be higher, the next question should be, "how high?"  After all, when the Presidential Commission on Election Administration was formed following long lines at some polling places in the 2012 presidential election, Commission members often asked, "What is an acceptable line?"

So, if turnout isn't high enough in April, what is the acceptable turnout?  No one has really quantified that here.

That quantification should drive the solution.

However, absent that, it's been demonstrated that elections outside of the April cycle--by mail or in the fall--have better turnout, so it's hard to argue that moving elections is bad.  Where to seems the item up for debate.

But that's not the discussion, so it's further difficult to have a constructive talk about the fall of odd years vs. the fall of even years because much of the debate is centering on the move at all or the composition of the elections--specifically if local races should be partisan.

Frankly, my view is that if that's the reason for the bill, then the elections should stay in April until turnout objectives are developed.

I've been a part of many discussions over the years related to moving elections.  The local race partisan aspect does come up occasionally, but almost always by observers rather than those involved in the legislation.  The Senate Bill clearly speaks to partisan, but it's an entire all-but-the-kitchen sink bill and may bury under its own weight.

What may be left is the move of elections, to odd or even years. 

Either is fine.  Odd is better.  Even will cost more. 

We'll handle it either way.