November-only bond issues and spending question elections was included in the property tax reform bill signed by Gov. Reynolds on May 4, 2023
What was the Problem?
Bond issue questions are some of the most important and impactful decisions on local taxpayers. However, participation in bond issue elections is lower when the elections are held in March or September.
Currently, local jurisdictions have three opportunities to hold bond issue elections in odd-numbered years and two opportunities in even-numbered years. These elections may take place in either March or September, and in odd-numbered year Novembers as well.
In 2017, the Iowa Legislature passed legislation that moved school board elections from September to November to improve voter participation. Most Iowa citizens are aware that elections take place in November each year but don’t have the same awareness about the many other elections that may occur throughout the year.
For this same reason, all bond issue elections should be placed on November election ballots for consideration of the electorate. Iowa code already recognizes the gravity of bond issue decisions by requiring a sixty percent threshold for passage, rather than a simple majority threshold. To ensure that the greatest possible participation of the electorate occurs, bond issue elections should be held at the most recognized time for elections: the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Exception may be made for bond issues that may arise in direct response to a natural disaster or other public emergency.
Bond issue questions are some of the most important and impactful decisions on local taxpayers, and maximizing public input by moving all bond issue questions to the November ballot is the right thing to do.