An apparent lack of time and communication has the Glendale Unified school board closer toward moving its elections in line with the Glendale City Council.
A few board members shared their reluctance during a board meeting on Tuesday, with some feeling pushed into a consensus that would likely mean same-day elections, starting in March of 2020, for the school district, City Council and Glendale Community College’s board of trustees.
“This is a great discussion that I don’t really feel like it’s one that we really [had],” board member Jennifer Freemon said. “I feel like we’ve kind of been handed [what] we have to do. I don’t think we really have much of a choice, which I don’t like. But I do think we have to move with everybody else whether or not it’s what we actually want to do.”
Glendale Unified Supt. Winfred Roberson Jr. said a change in the district’s election schedule has to be made due to the California Voter Participation Act, known as Senate Bill 415.
The law was signed in 2015 by Gov. Jerry Brown and takes effect Jan. 1.
The law stipulates that political entities, such as county and school districts, need to align their election dates with already established statewide dates if the voter turnout is less than 25% compared than the last four statewide elections, a threshold the local school district meets.
Currently, the City Council, board of education and board of trustees hold elections during odd-numbered years, which differs from even-numbered statewide elections.
Roberson presented two plans, the first moving school district elections to coincide with primary elections, which take place in March.
The second plan calls for a switch to the general elections, which are held in November.
In the first option, school board members would see their terms extended by 11 months, while the second choice calls for an addition of 19 months. The new schedule of elections would begin in 2020, if the change is approved.
On Nov. 7, the City Council voted to amend the city’s charter and possibly move municipal elections to March, beginning in 2020. Glendale residents will vote on that proposed change in April.
“We’re kind of in a corner because we’re left no time to make this decision,” Greg Krikorian, the school board’s vice president, said. “I do want to apologize to all of our constituents ... We specifically asked for this item to be discussed with the City Council and the college trustees and with the city clerk’s office, and we failed in that matter. That opportunity never happened. It was basically thrown upon, and the City Council made a vote.”
Glendale Community College’s trustees discussed the issue during a meeting on Nov. 21 and hinted they would follow suit with city officials. However, the trustees also wanted to wait to see how the school district would vote before making a decision, which is expected on Dec. 19.
“I’m very reluctant about it because fundamentally the bill was written to have more representation, to get more voters out,” Krikorian said.
Board member Shant Sahakian said he felt that unity was important.
“Ultimately, for me, No. 1, we need clarity for voters,” he said. “I think it’s very beneficial to have all Glendale elections on one day rather than dividing it up. I think that will be very confusing for voters.”
Board member Armina Gharpetian agreed with cutting down the confusion.
“This is the issue that I have with the November election. To me, local elections are way [more] important than presidential elections, to be honest with you,” she said. “We need to concentrate on our local election. With the November election, the general election, I think voters get overwhelmed.”
Krikorian countered that a smaller election doesn’t necessarily translate into a benefit for local voters.
“[I have a problem] with the way the school district is positioned on the ballot,” Krikorian said. “This year, Shant and Armina and I ran, and we had the most blank ballots because you have to flip the ballots over to find us. “So, I hear the argument from certain officials saying, ‘Well, it will be hard to find us in the November election.’ Well, it was hard to find us in the simple election we had here.”
Nayiri Nahabedian, board president, said she was inclined to vote for the March option.
“I, with reservations, will also vote with option A, which is March of even years,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that the City Council, when they made their decision, didn’t inquire about what this board or the GCC board was thinking.”
The school board is expected to vote on the issue at its next meeting on Dec. 12.