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Jackson considers moving school board race to General Election

Jackson considers moving school board race to General Election

The race for Jackson County Board of Education is unique in that it is decided during the Primary Election, despite being non-partisan. Now, the Jackson County Commission is considering changing the date of that race to the General Election in hopes of involving more of the electorate. 

“We are all in consensus that it should be moved to the General Election in November versus March, so we get a better grouping of people that are voting,” said Chairman Mark Letson.

Letson said that while there are pros and cons to having the school board elected during the Primary, the biggest downside is that a portion of voters don’t know that is the time to vote for their school board representative.

In the 2022 election cycle, the last with a school board race in Jackson, there were 7,246 ballots cast in the Primary Election versus 15,094 in the November General Election.

If the board can draft a resolution and get it to the General Assembly quickly enough, the change could go into effect for the 2024 election cycle.

There are two seats up for election on the Jackson County Board of Education in the coming year, currently held by Wes Jamison and Elizabeth Cooper, board chair. Only Jamison has filed for reelection. Because the board of education is non-partisan, there will be no Primary contest.

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Jamison will face Clint Irons in the general election to represent district three on the school board. In district one, previous County Commissioner Gayle Woody will face off against Rainy Brake.

While there wasn’t much controversy over the issue of moving the election to the General, there was some discussion among commissioners about whether this would warrant making the race for school board a partisan one.

“I think keeping it non-partisan is probably the best thing because then you could get a better group [of candidates],” said Letson.

Currently, in The Smoky Mountain News’ four-county coverage area, Swain County is the only partisan-elected school board. Jackson, Haywood and Macon are all elected on a non-partisan basis, meaning candidates for Board of Education do not identify with a political party on the ballot.

Just last month Macon County commissioners considered a resolution in support of changing its school board race from non-partisan to partisan, but after an outpouring of opposition from school board members and the public, the resolution did not pass.

The Jackson County Commission may have further discussion about also changing the race from non-partisan to partisan, but for now, the board only directed its attorney to draft a resolution in support of moving the school board election to November and keeping it non-partisan. It will eventually send that resolution on to Jackson County’s representatives in the General Assembly, who will have to pass a local bill in order to make the change happen.

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