January 2017 Newsletter – School Districts
The Impact of Senate Bill 415 (Hueso) on School Districts
While school districts are currently permitted under the Education Code to hold elections in odd numbered years, Senate Bill 415 requires an examination of voter turnout to determine whether odd year elections may continue. The bill, which was signed September 1, 2015 and becomes effective January 1, 2018, requires that certain political subdivisions, including school districts, only hold elections in even years on statewide election dates, if the voter turnout for that entity falls below 25% of the average of the voter turnout for the previous 4 statewide elections. The intent of Senate Bill 415 is to increase voter participation in in districts where voter turnout has been lower than average. In other words, districts with low voter turnout may no longer be allowed to conduct elections during odd years.
As a result, it is recommended that Districts which currently hold elections in odd numbered years obtain voter turnout data for its most recent election. The District will then need to compare the voter turnout to voter turnout data in statewide elections for 2014, 2012, 2010, and 2008. If the turnout for the District is less than 25% of the average turnout for statewide elections, the District will be required to change elections to even year that correspond with statewide and national election dates.
While offending Districts do not need to have the change implemented until January 1, 2022, a transition plan is required to be in place before January 1, 2018.
Finally, if elections in a qualifying district are not moved to even years, to coincide with statewide election dates within this time-frame, a court could require the county board of supervisors to consolidate the elections with the statewide elections, impose concurrent election dates for future District elections, and order the District to pay any costs for upgrading equipment necessary to do so. Additionally, any voter would be entitled to bring an action to enforce this statute. If the individual were successful, he or she could recover attorney fees and court costs. However, even if the District prevailed in the lawsuit, it would not be entitled to any cost reimbursement.
If you have any questions or need assistance determining eligibility, or transitioning to even numbered year election dates, please feel free to contact us.
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This publication was prepared solely for information purposes and should not be construed to be legal advice. If you would like further information on this matter, please contact our office.