There seemed to be confusion Tuesday (May 9) on whether there was a school election in Sebastian County. There was one set and clearly noted on a Notice of Election posted on the Sebastian County Clerk’s website. However, since there is nothing to be decided in the election, voting is irrelevant.
“I guess the answer (to whether there is an election or not) is yes and no,” said Sebastian County Election Coordinator Meghan Hassler.
The notice on the Sebastian County website states that in accordance with the requirements of Arkansas state law, notice is given that the annual school elections for Sebastian County will be held on May 9. However, in the four school districts in the county that had a school board position open for election – Greenwood, Hackett, Lavaca and Mansfield – no candidate was opposed.
In Greenwood, Kelli Griffith-Henning was unopposed in Zone 6. In Hackett, Patricia Black was unopposed in Zone 1. Perry Newman was unopposed in Zone 1 in Lavaca, and Owen Dale Edwards was unopposed in Zone 3 in Mansfield.
“Because candidates were unopposed, they took advantage of the new law that allows them to vote for themselves and be elected,” Hassler said.
Each of the school districts in the county had millage issues on the ballot, but because there was not a proposed change to any of the millages, the vote on those issues does not count.
School districts in Arkansas are required under Article 14, Section 3, of the Arkansas Constitution to include their tax rates on the ballots in school elections, regardless of whether they seek a change. If there is no proposed change in a tax rate, then a district seeks a vote on its existing rate, but no matter what voters decide, the millage rate will remain at the level last approved.
The election notice stated the unopposed candidates and the current millage rate for Greenwood, Hackett, Lavaca and Mansfield school districts and only the current millage rate for the Fort Smith School District.
“All voting was done either by absentee or early voting, so we won’t be having any type of late or busy night,” Hassler said.
According to Arkansas Code, if there is only one candidate after all deadlines for filing as a candidate have passed, only one polling place shall be open and that polling place may be at the courthouse and may be staffed by the county clerk or as many poll workers as the county board deems necessary. Also, polling places shall not be open on election day, and the election shall be conducted by absentee ballot and early voting only.