The Oklahoma Legislature should act now to delay the April 7 school board and municipal elections.
State law mandates that the election be held and the elected officials take office soon thereafter, but given the coronavirus pandemic, which clearly has a foothold in Oklahoma, that’s foolish and dangerous.
In Tulsa Public Schools, elections are on the ballot in districts 5 and 6. Across the state there are votes scheduled for school boards and most city governments.
On Wednesday, the state election board took a halfway measure, allowing and encouraging cities and school boards to reschedule their votes for this sumer, but that doesn’t address the problem of who will be running the schools and cities in the interum.
The correct way to stop the process and keep things running is for the Legislature to vote to delay the election and extend the terms of the current officials
That’s precedented and not the sort of thing we could have imagined happening until a few days ago, but the current health emergency is making a lot of people and institutions do things that were previously unimaginable.
Many poll workers are retired, people who are at much higher risk of serious complications or death from the coronavirus. Voters in school board elections also tend to be older people.
Given those risks, what is traditionally a very low turnout election could practically turn into a no-turnout election. The voters who do show up would have to be either extraordinarily civic minded or clueless about what’s happening in the nation and in Oklahoma. Should we trust the future of our school boards to those in that second group?
At any rate, the election we get would not be a fair sense of the electorate.
Other states have already postponed elections with more at play than seats on the school board. Oklahoma needs to do the same. Democracy can be served better later, when the COVID-19 danger has passed.