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— Gravette School District's annual school election is fast approaching, with the vote scheduled Tuesday, September 15. There is only one question on the ballot: the selection of a board member who will serve a five year term.

The millage rate, which normally is approved at this annual election, is missing because voters approved the rate in a special election held earlier this year. The rate remains at 37.2 mills.

In this election there is one difference; the number of polling places that will be open. Only two precincts will be open: one at the Gravette Civic Center, the other at the Highlands Methodist Church in Bella Vista. Missing are the usual voting precincts in Maysville, Sulphur Springs and Hiwasse.

This column is to remind voters in those communities they will either have to make trips to the two open precincts, cast early ballots at the office of the County Clerk in Bentonville September 8-15 or vote absentee. Contact the Clerk's office, 271-1013, for application.

Bill Williams, chairman of the Benton County Election Commission, said that body make polling place decisions to save money and to balance the needs as reflected in voting patterns in earlier elections. He cited the small turnout of voters in the special school election here earlier this year: 19 at Maysville; 27 at Hiwasse; 51 at Sulphur Springs.

He noted it costs approximately $750 to open each polling place which saved about $2,250; an admirable savings, but is it right? The school district pays for the election, not the commission.

This action concerns me when there is a contested race on the ballot or a millage change is proposed.

When about 80% of a taxpayer's county tax revenue is designated for the school, it would seem imperative that everyone in the district have easy access to the polls to choose their board representative whose input is important in school financial decisions.

A similar action, limiting polling places, occurred several years ago. At that time The News Herald raised similar concerns and since then all five precincts have been utilized. The one exception was a year ago when there was no contested race and no millage rate change proposed and no local polls were opened. That decision made sense.

Who the candidates might be or the proposed millage rate is not the concern. The concern is that every voter should have easy access to the polls on election day, whether there is one voter or a hundred. It is only right. Especially when there is so much encouragement for people to vote and voter apathy is so prevalent. We hope there will be a return to the old established principle in the future. That will be the right thing to do.

News, Pages 4 on 09/02/2009

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