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Turner: Hearings Needed On School Election Issue

TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner agreed today to call hearings shortly by her Senate Education Committee on what election cycle Spring school board votes should be shifted to “so as to never repeat the dismal turnouts we just witnessed statewide.”

As Chair of the Senate Education panel, Senator Turner, D-Mercer, said the hearings could begin over the next two months to weigh multiple legislative proposals such as her bill to shift the school board elections to the date of the November general election.

“The idea is to improve turnout to the greatest extent possible and we should carefully evaluate all factors,” she said. “I am fully conscious of the concerns expressed by the education community that a general election-switchover could entangle school board votes in too many unrelated political issues. But the prospect of profound voter participation may still make it work doing.”

Senator Turner said her bill, S-1546, was similar to other proposals advanced on a bipartisan basis by Senate President Richard J. Codey, Senator John H. Adler, D-Cherry Hill, and Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance.

“I understand there’s some interest out there for switching it to the June primary date, ostensibly because it could serve to eliminate partisan entanglements,” Senator Turner said. “But I will welcome the input of experts.”

Senator Turner, who serves as Senate President Pro Tem, commended Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts for raising the issue again in the wake of the scant school board elections turnout, but made it clear that the resolution should be bipartisan.

“The savings of a shift to a general election date could become extremely significant in light of these dire fiscal times,” Senator Turner added. “Millions of dollars could be saved annually by eliminating an election cycle that was barely noticed for too many years.”

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