Let’s vote! Special District Election on May 16

What’s What in Our Government: The Special Case of Special Districts      

What in the world is a “special district”?

In Multnomah County, it turns out that turnout in special district elections is low. If you look at the percentage that did not vote as well as those who did, the numbers are startling. Even in the recent special district election in 2021, 75% of the voters across the Multnomah County did not vote. Such low voter turnout means that even small efforts can make a big difference in the outcomes! It also means these districts are very vulnerable to being taken over by negative forces as we have seen in school districts across the United States.
Therefore, let’s get out the vote (GOTV)!!

This election cycle, the MultDems are asking local Democratic Party candidates to answer a few questions about what they stand for. You can view the list of Democratic candidates, with links to those who have responded to the MultDems questionnaire, on the Election Hub: https://multdems.org/election-hub/.

It’s especially important for Democrats in Multnomah County to vote in the May 16, 2023 special district election, particularly in in races where the extreme right (aka MAGA Republicans) is trying to infiltrate, especially with east county school board and MESD contests.

Here are some stats about local voting in off-season elections:

Special district elections voting

What is a special district?

School boards, water, and fire protection are all special districts. These are typically limited by geography and do not follow city or even county boundaries (this is where it gets confusing!). For example, the city of Portland has four school districts in its boundaries: Centennial, David Douglas, Parkrose and the biggie Portland Public.

Special Districts are also considered “citizen boards.” Most of the positions are unpaid and not held by seasoned politicians. Regular citizens step up to run and work on these boards. Special District elections happen every two years in the spring. There is no primary.

What kind of school boards are designated as special districts? There are three different kinds of school boards across the whole of Multnomah County:

School Boards

What do school boards do?

These boards have four basic jobs:

Duties and descriptions for school board positions vary by

  • how long the person serves: two-to-four years
  • where the candidate must live
  • who gets to vote for them in the district.

What is common across all of these board positions?

They are labeled with numbered positions, e.g., Position 1, Position 2, etc.

What is different across these boards?

K-12 boards: In zoned positions, candidates must reside in their zone. In “at large” positions, candidates must reside in district. Not all districts have “at large” positions.

  • All voters in district vote for all candidates no matter the zone.

CC boards and Educational Service District boards: Candidates must reside in their zone. In “at large” positions candidates must reside in the district.

  • Voters ONLY vote for candidate by zone.

In other words, in Multnomah County, we vote for all candidates on the ballot in the school district that we reside in. The zone is the seat where the candidate/board member resides, but on your ballot you can vote for all candidates for all zones. This is unlike the Mt. Hood Community College board, where you can only vote for the candidate in your zone, and the Multnomah Education Service District (MESD) board, where you can vote for the candidate in your zone and any at-large candidates.

Here is a list of candidates who are verified Democrats. Those marked with an asterisk (*) by their names are in hotly contested races with Republican opponents. They deserve our support!

in the Special District Election, May 16, 2023

 (*= those with R opponents)

Multnomah County Commissioner
Anna Del Rocio, Albert Kaufman, Julia Brim-Edwards

Multnomah Educational Service District
Dr. Samuel Henry*, Renee W. Anderson*, Denyse Peterson*, Danny Cage, Katrina Doughty

Mt. Hood Community College
Andrew Speer, Dana Stroud, Barry Fox-Quamme, Diane Noriega, ShaToyia Bentley

Portland Community College
Tiffani Penson, Kien Truong, Kristi Wilson

Centennial School District
Jess Hardin, Melissa Standley, Rose Solowski, Heath Curry, Pam Shields

Corbett School District
Andrew Hatlen*, Ben Byers*, Paul Granberg*, Leah Fredericks*, Tamie Tlustos-Arnold*

David Douglas School District
Gabriela Saldana-Lopez, Aaron Barrow*, Heather Franklin, Kate Sherman, Deian Salazar

Gresham-Barlow School District
Dr. Cherice P. Roth*, Kris Howatt, Julie Frediani*, Stefanie Craft*

Parkrose School District
Brenda Rivas, Eva-Jeanette Rawlins

Portland Public Schools
Andrew Scott, Michelle DePass, Derrick Peterson, Patte Sullivan, Eddie Wang

Reynolds School District
Joyce Rosenau, Patty Carrera, Ana Munoz, Francisco Ibarra

For more information about the May 2023 Special District Elections and Candidates, visit: https://multdems.org/election-hub/ .

To preview your ballot, visit Ballotpedia.com:  ballotpedia.org/sample_ballot_lookup .

Dannelle D. Stevens is Vice Chair of the MultDems Campaign and Candidate Liaison Committee.
Contact her at dannelled@mac.com .