CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A proposal to rein in weekend special elections is among the bills Kanawha County officials want to introduce to the West Virginia Legislature.
"It's a total waste of taxpayers' dollars to have an election every time you turn around," said Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper, who is pushing the bill as part of the county commission's yearly legislative agenda. "It's completely unnecessary."
Under the bill, which Carper said has the backing of Kanawha County lawmakers, it would no longer be legal to run a special levy election within six months of a regularly scheduled election, or to rerun a failed levy within one year of the original election. Carper said the intention of the bill is to encourage government agencies to put special elections on a regular election ballot.
School boards, cities and counties have often run special elections on Saturdays. Typically, fewer people turn out to vote for Saturday elections, and those who do tend to vote in favor of the levies.
However, the tactic backfired on Kanawha County school officials last month, when voters soundly defeated an excess school levy that would have provided about $3 million in funding to the county library system. The library levy was attached to a $24 million extra school levy.
School officials hoped the Saturday election and support for the library levy would carry the excess school levy, which came on the back of a $20 million excess school levy passed by voters last year. Instead, more than 76 percent of voters cast their ballots against the levy.
Carper said Saturday elections decrease voter turnout and are expensive. He said the school board's excess levy cost more than $350,000.
"Why can't elections like that be on a regular election cycle?" Carper asked.
He said Kanawha County's public safety levy, which provides money for bus and ambulance service and the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department, is always put on a regular election ballot. The levy, run by the Kanawha County Commission, is up again on the May primary ballot.