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Changes to school bond vote requirements should be tied to the November general election

There are many good reasons to require a supermajority vote, even with voter approval, for school bonds. Unlike normal levies, these bond obligations can extend for many years and the taxes can’t be repealed until that obligation is met. Wanting to prevent a small number of voters from imposing a long-term tax burden on a community, many state constitutions across the country require bond votes to secure a broad consensus. While several states require a 3/5 vote for school bonds, Idaho is one of the few in the country that mandates a 2/3 vote of the people.

Several lawmakers in Idaho are discussing whether Idaho’s school bond requirement should be changed. As reported by the Idaho Statesman:

“Furniss said in an interview that lawmakers are discussing ways to reduce the vote threshold in elections when turnout is high. That way, bond measures wouldn’t fail with 65% support in high-turnout years — what would be a blowout election in any other race.”

Moving to a 3/5 vote requirement for school bonds, IF the election is required to be held at the November general for maximum voter turnout and involvement, is a discussion worth having. What shouldn’t happen is allowing “special elections” with low voter turnout to increase the long-term tax obligation of a community.

One possible idea would be to give school districts a choice: A special election with a 2/3 vote or placing the bond tax levy on the November general election and requiring a 3/5 vote. The goal should be the same, allowing the full voice of the community to be heard by making these tax decisions at the elections with the highest voter turnout.

To that point, ultimately all local tax levies should be moved to the November general election. As for legislatively imposed taxes, those too should require a supermajority vote or voter approval.

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