As the general election on Nov. 2 nears, boards of education are waiting to see who their fellow members may be come January. Here at the legal division of OSBA, we’re getting lots of questions about the upcoming election. Two of the areas we’re getting questions about are write-in candidates and filling vacancies if not enough candidates are running for election.

Write-in candidates

Many scenarios can cause a person to become a write-in candidate, such as missing the main filing deadline and not knowing that no one was running for an available seat. Monday, Aug. 23, at 4 p.m., is the deadline for filing a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate for the November election. However, knowing the filing deadline isn’t enough when someone finds themselves considering a run as a write-in candidate. If you need some direction, OSBA has a new factsheet regarding write-in candidates, which can be found here.

The factsheet walks through easy questions, such as what a write-in candidate is and what qualifications are needed. It also takes on more difficult questions, such as how do voters vote for a write-in candidate, how many votes are needed to win an election, and whether a person can become a write-in candidate if the board of elections already rejected their nominating petition. Please refer to this fact sheet for information to help understand this form of candidacy.

Vacancies on the board

Vacancies can occur in a multitude of ways including resignation, nonresidence, and even removal from office. Another way to have a vacant seat on a board of education is when no qualified individual runs for an open seat.

As we hear from our member districts, there are either a large number of people running for the few open seats or almost no one running for the positions. In the latter case, there will be vacancies. OSBA’s fact sheet on vacancies is a big help but since vacancies usually occur during, rather than at the beginning of, a term, here are some extra pointers.

Although all the board members will know that a seat will be vacant if no individual is running for it, the seat is not officially vacant until Jan. 1 following the election. That means the board cannot act the fill the vacancy until its regular or special meeting not earlier than ten days after Jan. 1. And the board must fill the vacancy within 30 days after it occurs or the authority to fill the vacancy will shift to the county probate court.

Another confusing aspect of appointing someone to fill a vacancy at the beginning of a term of office is what the term of appointment will be. When a person is appointed, that person will serve the shorter of either:

  • The completion of the term of the original board member; or
  • Until Jan. 1 following the next regular board of education election, if the election occurs at least 90 days after the person is appointed.

In the case of a person appointed to a vacancy that occurs because no one ran for the position, the second of these two options is the shorter. In other words, an appointee will serve less than the full term or until Jan. 1, 2024. A special election will be held in November 2023 for the remaining two years of the term.

As always, the OSBA division of legal services continues to monitor the legal landscape and will post information on these and other school board election topics as it becomes available. If you have questions, please contact the division at 1-855-OSBA-LAW.

Posted by Ralph Lusher III on 8/20/2021