Low voter turnout in Arkansas school board elections
Low voter turnout was the common factor in Tuesday's Arkansas school board elections, with less than 1,000 votes cast in each race despite them taking place in three of the state's five largest cities. Less than 0.5% of Little Rock residents voted in the state's largest school district election. Turnout remained low despite the efforts of candidates and groups such as Arkansas Learns, which led a statewide Get-Out-The-Vote campaign. Columnist Jason Tolber reported statewide turnout at approximately 36,000 voters, which represents only about 2% of all registered voters in Arkansas. A proposal to move the elections to the November uniform election date was defeated in the state House after passing the Senate.
Several school boards around Arkansas will be welcoming new members in the coming weeks, since our newcomers were victorious in Tuesday's elections. Florene Armstrong and Tara Shephard will be facing off in a runoff election to be held in two weeks time, with the winner joining fellow newcomer Charlie C.E. McAdoo on the Little Rock School District Board of Directors. Michelle McCaslin Cook will be joining the Springdale Public School Board after a successful opposed race, while Dean Martin fended off a challenge from Mark Raines to keep his seat on the Cabot Public School Board. Fort Smith Public Schools incumbents Dr. David Hunton and Susan McFerran also managed to lead successful re-election campaigns. Greg Adams, Curtis Clements and Jeffrey Alan Williams were incumbents who were uncontested in Little Rock, Rogers and Springdale school districts respectively.
Spotlight: Little Rock School District
A runoff election will take place between Florene Armstrong and Tara Shephard on October 1 after the Tuesday's election separated the two candidates by just 35 votes. The winner will join fellow newcomer Charlie C.E. McAdoo and re-elected incumbent Greg Adams on the Little Rock School District Board of Directors as overseers of Arkansas' largest school district. This election took place in the wake of the district's new dress code policy that has attracted attention from several national news outlets. The district is also facing a large achievement gap that has shown black students achieving approximately 38% lower test scores in literacy and mathematics across all grade levels. Following the ousting of incumbent Tommy Branch Jr., the board retains its black majority and will now feature a majority of women.
- Gary Newton, Arkansas Learns, "Arkansas Learns Launches School Election Get-Out-the-Vote Campaign," September 10, 2013
- Jason Tolbert, Arkansas News, "Elections that matter," September 18, 2013
- Vote Pulaski, "Pulaski County, 2013 Annual School Election," accessed September 18, 2013
- Yahoo News, "Little Rock school district will now make teachers wear underwear," September 6, 2013
- Speak Up Little Rock, "The Little Rock School District Desegregation Case," accessed September 18, 2013