New Law Might Impact Timing of School Board Elections

August 2016

While school district governing board elections customarily occur on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of each odd-numbered year, the Elections Code permits school boards to adopt a resolution—known as a consolidation—to move their district’s elections to the same day as statewide primary or general elections on even-numbered years.  However, beginning January 1, 2018, Senate Bill 415 (“SB 415”), the California Voter Participation Rights Act, takes effect and may require a consolidation to even-year elections, depending on your district’s voter turnout.  

SB 415 prohibits a local government from holding a separate election “on any date other than a statewide election date” if the voter turnout in past local elections has resulted in a “significant decrease in voter turnout.”  A “significant decrease in voter turnout” is defined as at least 25 percent less than the average voter turnout for the previous four statewide elections within the political subdivision.   

If SB 415’s provisions are violated, any voter may file suit to enforce and can recover attorneys’ fees and litigation expenses, including, but not limited to, expert witness fees.  In order to avoid potential liability, school districts with odd-numbered year elections experiencing low voter turnout must either consolidate to even-year elections by the date of its first election after January 1, 2018 or adopt a plan to consolidate by that date.  If a district adopts a plan to consolidate by 2018, the consolidation must occur by November 8, 2022.

Prior to SB 415’s implementation, it is recommended that:

  • Districts evaluate their voter turnout levels in comparison with the standard set forth in SB 415.
  • Districts contact the County Registrar of Voters and/or Board of Supervisors to determine whether the County is currently accepting consolidation requests or if a moratorium exists on even-year election consolidation.
  • Where the County has imposed a moratorium on consolidations to even-year elections, district inquire how the County plans to address the moratorium in light of the implementation of SB 415, which may require a conversion to even-year elections.


If you have any questions regarding this matter or seek additional information on how your school district can begin preparations for compliance with SB 415, please call one of our six offices.

F3 NewsFlash prepared by Peter K. Fagen, Jonathan A. Salt, and Fhanysha Clark.
Peter is a Partner in the F3 San Diego office.
Jonathan is an Associate in the F3 San Diego office.
Fhanysha is a Law Clerk in the F3 Los Angeles office.

This F3 NewsFlash is a summary only and not legal advice.  We recommend that you consult with legal counsel to determine how this legal development may apply to your specific facts and circumstances.  Information on a free NewsFlash subscription can be found at www.f3law.com.

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© 2016 Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost LLP

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