Bill Would Only Let Property Owners Cast Ballots In School Bond Elections

UPDATE: The intent of this legislation is different from the wording. More here.

Here’s an interesting notion: What if the only people allowed to vote in school bond elections were the ones obligated to pay for the bonds?

That’s what HB1383 would accomplish if passed. The bill was introduced by Rep. Dick Anderson, a Republican from Willow city. Here’s the jist of it:

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“Freeholder” is a bit of an archaic term, but it basically means property owner, though that raises some questions.

Does freeholder mean somebody who owns their property free and clear? Meaning that they have no mortgages or liens against it? That would seem to be the literal definition of the term, though if so it would limit eligible voters in a school district even further.

And what about people who own property in a school district but don’t actually live there? Could someone from Minot, say, who owns property in a Fargo-area school district vote in that district’s bond elections?

This bill, as written, seems to make that the case. Can you imagine the nightmare that would represent in terms of administering elections? On top of everything else, election officials would have to determine if a given voter is a property owner holding free title?

Just in terms of logistics, that’s got to be a non-starter.

This is a fairly old-fashioned notion. At the time of America’s founding, during the revolutionary period, voting rights were generally limited to property owners. We’ve expanded voting rights now to near-universal suffrage, and I doubt there’s going to be much support for scaling things back even in such a limited scope.

Still the notion is sound. Far too often we have people with very little “skin in the game” when it comes to taxes voting for ever-larger government. But the solution for that isn’t to limit voting rights, but rather to reform taxes so that the tax based is broad.

Taxes should be situated so that nobody pays a lot, and everybody pays a little.