Frequently asked questions about elections
September 24, 2009
- When can districts vote on a bond levy?
- Is the double majority a requirement for all elections?
- Is there any limit to the number of times a district can submit a measure to voters?
- Is there a disadvantage to voting by mail?
- Which election is the best for school bond measures?
- What can a district tell voters about the election?
- Who decides what’s advocacy and what’s information? What’s the penalty for violating the law?
- Can school board members engage in advocacy activities?
- Can district employees engage in advocacy activities?
- Can the campaign committee hold meetings in district buildings?
- Can the advocacy committee use a district copy machine or make phone calls from the district?
Q. When can districts vote on a bond levy?
A. There are four election dates each year:
- Second Tuesday in March
- Third Tuesdays in May and September
- The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November
Q. Is the double majority a requirement for all elections?
A. No. A measure submitted in an election held in any May or November is exempt from the requirement.
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.
Q. Is there a disadvantage to voting by mail?
A. Not anymore. Voting by mail increases voter turnout and may assist districts in reaching the 50 percent turnout requirement. In addition, the majority of voters who vote are now voting by mail in the primary and general elections, Oregon’s only polling place elections.
Q. Which election is the best for school bond measures?
A. Statistics indicate that school bond levies do better in the May, March and November elections. September elections are difficult because ballots often are mailed before school is in session. (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 will 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 citizen believes something the district does 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 use 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 from the district?
A. No. The advocacy committee should find non-district sources.
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.
Election do's and don'ts for public officials
Roles and responsibilities in a bond election campaign
Sample bond election campaign structure