LITTLE ROCK — The House on Friday approved a bill to require that school board elections be held at the same time as general or primary elections or on the equivalent dates in non-election years.


House Bill 1621 by Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, passed in a 50-19 vote. The bill goes to the Senate.


Under current law, annual school elections may be held on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November, which is the date when general elections are held in even-numbered years, or on the third Tuesday in September, which typically does not coincide with any other election.


Lowery told House members his bill would not affect millage elections but would apply to school board elections. He said turnout for school elections would be higher if the elections coincided with general or primary elections.


“We should want to have the most buy-in possible,” he said.


Speaking against the bill, House Minority Leader Michael John Gray, D-Augusta, said holding a school election on the same day as a statewide election would mean partisan politics would play a greater role in the outcome.


“School board elections should not get caught up in partisan politics,” he said.


Rep. Charlene Fite, R-Van Buren, spoke in support of the bill, asking, “Why would we not want people to come out and vote during the time that we’re going to have the largest turnout?”


Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock, who voted against the bill, noted that the state Chamber of Commerce supports the measure.


“Face up to it, people. This is all about Little Rock, Pulaski County and trying to break up Little Rock so that people, chamber of commerce types, can make the decisions about who runs because they have the greatest resources,” he said.