WILMINGTON— Following its extensive school board elections campaign, the ACLU of Delaware reports both higher voter turnout in some districts, as well as increased engagement from Delawareans with voter education tools. The results point to a changing landscape when it comes to school board elections in Delaware.
This year, Red Clay Consolidated school district saw its second highest voter turnout in the past 8 years, with 1,581 more votes cast than last year. Christina has seen its turnout triple in recent years, with this year’s final count being the highest number of voters the district has seen in the past 8 years.
The ACLU of Delaware undertook statewide school board voter education efforts to help ensure every eligible voter could cast an informed ballot for candidates who align with their values. This included the launch of the Delaware Voting Rights Coalition’s (DVRC) “How to Vote in Delaware’s School Board Elections” voter guide in both English and Spanish on its website, VoteDelaware.org. The site saw a 27% increase in number of users during the school board election season since its initial launch in April 2022, with candidate questionnaire viewers making up an estimated 12.65% of voters statewide.
The campaign saw success in mobilization efforts to elevate critical issues like budget equity, restorative justice, inclusion, and health and safety in target districts leading up to Election Day. In Red Clay and Christina School Districts, campaign efforts centered on students' right to learn free from viewpoint-based censorship. “Classrooms have become a flashpoint for national debates,” said Helen Salita, ACLU-DE Campaign Manager and voting rights lead, “From protecting students’ First Amendment right to learn to investing in preventative, trauma-informed intervention, voters are starting to realize that school board members hold the power to make decisions that can affect a community for generations to come.”
This is the first year the Delaware Voting Rights Coalition released a school board-specific guide, and also the first time to include accessibility information. Joann Kinsley, Voting Rights Advocate with the Disabilities Law Program at Community Legal Aid Society, Inc (CLASI), says it definitely won’t be the last. “The inclusion of accessibility information in resources like the Voter Guide are vital to increasing participation from voters who face significant barriers to the ballot box, like those with disabilities and the elderly,” she points out, “Accessibility is crucial throughout the process: from registration, to voter education materials, the polling locations and voting machines, and other voting methods such as the absentee ballot.” CLASI has since released a comprehensive report detailing widespread accessibility violations at Delaware polling places during the 2022 Midterm Election season.
Turnout alone is not the only notable change. “We’re seeing a significant increase in Delawareans looking for information about platforms and where candidates stand on the issues that matter to them,” said Laurisa Schutt, Executive Director of First State Educate. “One of the most effective ways to increase voter participation is to make educational resources available and accessible – and to focus on the big picture that impacts students, families and communities – learning outcomes and teacher conditions.” Among many other education efforts, First State Educate hosted six virtual candidate forums via Facebook Live. Recordings of the forums can also be viewed on the ACLU of Delaware’s Youtube channel.
The ACLU of Delaware encourages all Delawareans—not just parents—to learn more about their district’s school board members and their stances, attend local school board meetings, and hold elected officials accountable to prioritizing the needs of the community and students they represent. “School board elections don’t often make headlines, but they have a big impact on our daily lives,” Salita concludes. “Local elections like these give us an opportunity to send a message to lawmakers at all levels of government about the issues we care about and the kind of future we want for our state.”