Q. When can districts vote on a bond levy?
A. There are four election dates each year (ORS 255.345):
Simple majority, no turnout requirement for approval:
- Third Tuesday in May
- First Tuesday after the first Monday in November
Double majority: Simple majority, 50 percent turnout required for approval:
- Second Tuesday in March
- Third Tuesday in September
Filing deadlines are on the Oregon Secretary of State’s elections website - oregonvotes.org.
Q. When does the double majority requirement for elections apply?
A. There is no turnout requirement for May or November elections. However, there is a 50 percent voter turnout requirement for March and September elections.
Q. Is there any limit to the number of times a district can submit a measure to voters?
A. No. However, the county does charge the district for election costs. In addition, multiple elections can erode a district’s credibility with voters.
Q. Is there a disadvantage to voting by mail?
A. No. Voting by mail increases voter turnout and may help districts voting in March or September reach the 50 percent turnout requirement.
Q. Which election is the best for school bond measures?
A. Districts need to consider survey data and their community’s characteristics in choosing an election date. Statistics indicate that school bond levies do better in March, May and November elections. September elections are difficult because ballots are mailed before school is in session. March and September elections require a 50 percent voter turnout. Property tax bills are mailed at about the same time ballots are mailed for November elections and may impact a measure’s success. (For a detailed listing of election results see Election Results.)
Q. What can a district tell voters about the election?
A. Districts can provide factual information about the measure and tell voters what the results would be if the measure passes or doesn’t pass. District information must be impartial and avoid advocacy. For example, "The ABC district is asking voters to consider a bond levy" is information. "The ABC district is asking voters to approve a bond levy" is advocacy.
Q. Who decides what’s advocacy and what’s information? What’s the penalty for violating the law?
A. The district has the responsibility to review all election-related materials and activities paid for with public funds or involving public employees to be sure they are advocacy-free. If a community member believes something the district produces advocates a positive or negative vote, that individual can file a complaint with the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State’s Elections Division reviews the complaint. If the district and/or employees are found in violation of the law, they may be fined. Or if a public official "expends any public money in excess of the amounts, or for any other or different purposes than authorized by law," that official can be sued by the county district attorney or taxpayer from that district (ORS 294.100 (2)).
Q. Can school board members engage in advocacy activities?
A. Yes. They can engage in advocacy activities at any time as long as no public funds are involved.
School boards can pass resolutions in support of or in opposition to measures. The action can be reported in board minutes and board reports, but no public funds should be used for any further publication of the action.
Q. Can district employees engage in advocacy activities?
A. Yes, as long as these activities take place outside of work hours and do not involve use of public resources.
Q. Can the campaign committee hold meetings in district buildings?
A. Yes, if the campaign committee is treated like other community groups that request use of the same district facility. Districts should check and follow board policies for facility use.
Q. Can the advocacy committee use a district copy machine or make phone calls using district phones?
A. In general, the advocacy committee should find nondistrict sources for printing and phoning. However, if the district makes these resources available to the public, then a campaign committee can use the district copy machine and phones provided the committee is treated like all other community groups or members of the public that are allowed to use these resources.
Q: Can the district put a link on its website to the advocacy committee website?
A. No. A district should not put a link on its website to an advocacy (political action) committee website. This also means a PAC’s contact information and requests to volunteer for PAC activities should not be included on the district’s website or in other district information, or communicated using district email addresses. However, if a district wants to provide links related to a measure on its website, the district may do so providing all (pro and con) PAC websites are included.
This information is taken from OSBA’s Oregon School Bond Manual which is designed as a guide to help school district, education service district and community college officials understand their long- and short-term borrowing options.