Some school elections still on, some canceled due to pandemic
Last updated 4/20/2020 at 8:29am
Editor’s note: This corrects some misinformation about returning ballots for other people under the requirements of the Ballot Interference Prevention Act.
Havre Public Schools Superintendent Andy Carlson said the Havre School Board election is still scheduled.
The election includes three-year positions now held by Tim Scheele, Curtis Smeby and Cindy Erickson who are up for election.
“It is a mail-out ballot,” he said.
He said the ballots were mailed out Wednesday and are due back by Tuesday, May 5 that can either be mailed back in or can be dropped off at the Robins Administration Building.
A yellow bus will also be parked out front of the building from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through May 5, he said, where people can drop them off as well.
Carlson said the new Montana Ballot Interference Protection Act also changes how people can return ballots for other people.
The ballot collection registration form says:
"This form is used by someone delivering a ballot for another elector pursuant to the Montana Ballot Interference Prevention Act (Mont. Code Ann. 13-35-701 et al). Only a caregiver, family member, household member, or an acquaintance is authorized to collect a voter’s ballot and may not collect and convey more than six ballots per election. A violation of a provision of 13-35 part 7 is punishable by a fine of $500 for each ballot unlawfully collected."
If a person brings a ballot back that is not their own ballot they must fill out the Ballot Interference Prevention Act form and they can only return six ballots total. Example: a person can return one ballot one day for their spouse and came back and return five more ballots the next day. The form will have to be filled out both times because the ballots are not their own ballot They can only bring in a total of six other ballots not including their own ballot.
The election ballot also mentions a mill levy to be implemented at Havre High School, Carlson said. The Havre Public School district has not run a levy since 2016.
“On the high school side, we are going to ask for a levy of $46, 714, that’s 1.8 mills,” he said. “... I can’t tell you to vote for or against the levy, I will say this, we wouldn’t have put that levy on if we didn’t know our circumstances. It’s tough because we wouldn’t have run the levy obviously if we thought we weren’t in a spot where we thought it was important, we were asking for spending authority.”
That equates to an annual increase in taxes of $2.44 for a $100,000 home, or $4.88 for a $200,000 home.
He said the district is asking for the levy because, with the way school funding works, it is likely to see a reduction in its budget next year even though it is likely to have an increase in students, and it wants to keep its high school budget authority up.
“We are going to have more students at Havre High next year because we have a larger class coming in than what we have leaving, but we are funded by the students we have this year,” he said.
Rocky Boy Public Schools is doing the same for its school board elections, by making it a mail-out ballot.
Rocky Boy Superintendent Voyd St. Pierre said two vacancies are open for the Board of Trustees seats, with incumbents Teddy Russette III and Billie Jo Coffee’s positions open.
“Ballots will be mailed to the 1,377 active and inactive voters within Hill and Chouteau counties, where the Rocky Boy School District territory sits,” he said. “New residents who have not registered to vote in county or state elections may do so at the District office until April 27; after this date new voters must register at the Chouteau or Hill County Clerk & Recorders Offices.”
Inactive voters can register actively right up to the election date by visiting with the school district clerk, Deborah Arkinson, he said, and that ballots can be returned by mail or hand-delivered to her on or before 8 p.m. on May 5.
Harlem Public Schools is still holding its school board elections.
“Ballots are going out now,” Superintendent Dorreen Warren said.
It will be a mail-out ballot, she said.
The school board has two vacancies, she added.
Chester-Joplin-Inverness schools has postponed its school board elections till further notice.
Last Friday, a notice from the Liberty County Superintendent of Schools Kathy Armstrong said the School Board of Trustees election has been canceled.
She said in the notice that many of the people who work the elections are elderly, who are more vulnerable to the virus.
The secure areas available to store and arrange the ballots do not follow the social distancing requirements, she added.
“After (Gov. Steve Bullock) terminates the state of emergency, the trustees of the school district shall reschedule the elections,” Armstrong said in the notice.
Box Elder Public Schools will not be having a school board election.
Superintendent Jeremy MacDonald said the election did not have enough candidates for the positions open.