Do the Right Thing for Kids recently analyzed election results and canvass data published by the KC Election Board from the past 5 bi-annual elections (2000–2008) for the Kansas City Missouri School Board. The analysis supports what we believe is the fundamental flaw in our current system for electing School Board members — it fails to produce a sufficient number of qualified candidates to fill open positions. In fact, 8 of the 9 current members of the School Board ran unopposed (or were appointed to) their positions! And when multiple candidates do run for an open position, voter turnout is excessively low. Our findings include:
- Since 2000, 58% of the “elected” positions were filled by candidates who ran unopposed (14 out of 24 seats)
— In the last 3 elections, 77% of the seats (10 of 13) were won by candidates who ran unopposed
— In the last 2 elections, the number rises to 89% (8 of 9 seats)
— The Subdistrict 1 seat won by Arthur Benson in 2008 was won with only 379 votes which is ~1% of registered voters in that Subdistrict
— Since 2000, the average % of registered voters who vote for a winning candidate in a contested election is just 7%
— The current School Board President has never won a contested election (losing elections in 1998 and 2000 and running unopposed in 2002 and 2006 for the current Subdistrict 6 position)
Based on recent history, we can’t see how the the current system reflects any sort of democratic process when 8 of 9 of the current board members were not elected by popular vote! And the one candidate (Benson) who was in a contested election, won with just 379 votes in a write-in process! How can a system that attracts so few candidates be expected to produce truly qualified leaders?
The thought that almost anyone, regardless of qualifications, can “win” an uncontested election and sit on the School Board should be deeply troubling to us all.