Gadsden voters are going to the polls today to vote on a referendum on whether they want an elected school board. Currently, Gadsden has an appointed school board, in which the mayor and council pick the members of the board.
Former state Rep. Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) sponsored legislation to allow the voters to decide on whether or not they want an elected board. Butler formerly served on the Etowah County School board which is elected. The Attalla School Board is also an elected board.
“With an elected school board all voters have an equal voice in choosing their representatives. You the people will be able to hold your representatives accountable,” Butler said on social media. “Vote yes on Tuesday, January 22nd.”
Alabama has a mixture of school board arrangements. St. Clair County for example has an elected school board and an elected school superintendent. Leeds has an appointed school board and an appointed superintendent. Birmingham has an elected school board, which appointed the school superintendent. In St. Clair County the school board members and the superintendent run in partisan political races where most candidates go through the Republican or Democratic party primaries. In Birmingham, the school board candidates like the council candidates run in municipal elections and do not have to align with a political party.
Opponents of elected boards argue that there is too much politics in elected boards and that mayors and councils can seek out the best and the brightest from the community to serve, rather than the most popular. Proponents of elected boards argue that school board elections give the public more input into who their leaders are and make school boards more accountable to the people.
Gadsden voters previously rejected a referendum on an elected school board in 2008 with 53 percent voting to keep the appointed school board to just 47 preferring the elected board.
Polls open at 7:00 a.m. and close at 7:00 p.m.
Voters should bring a valid photo ID with them to participate in any Alabama election. Alabama does not have same day voter registration so if you are not already registered to vote in Gadsden you are not eligible to vote today.
Original reporting by the Gadsden Times contributed to this report.