By Anna Lovern
The question for this issue is answered by Anna Lovern, IASB director of policy services
Question: Numerous changes were made to the Election Code and sections of the School Code last year. How do these changes affect the duties that have traditionally been performed by the district secretary or superintendent’s administrative assistant?
Answer: The Election Code has long named the elected school board secretary, or a representative designated by the board, as the “local election official” for school board elections. In most districts, it is the district secretary or superintendent’s administrative assistant who performs all duties, serving as the designated local election official for the district.
In 2013, almost all election duties changed. While the school board secretary is still the “local election official,” virtually all of the duties previously assigned to that position are now assigned to the “election authority,” i.e., the county clerk or county board of election commissioners (if one has been established).
Following is an outline of the changes:
• Providing nominating packets was never a legal requirement, but most districts did provide them as a community service and to facilitate the process of running for the board. As before, providing this service is a district decision.
• Posting a notice of when and where to file petitions also was not a legal requirement, but most districts did post the information. If districts choose to continue the practice, the time and place for filing must reflect the office hours and location of the election authority (county clerk or county board of election commissioners).
• Whether the district secretary will provide information to those interested in running for the board or not is another district option. Districts may wish to instruct the secretary to direct questions to the election authority or refer individuals to the State Board of Elections website.
• District secretaries will no longer receive and file nominating petitions. This is now the duty of the election authority. It is possible that candidates, especially incumbent board members, may ask the secretary to review their materials, and perhaps to notarize signatures. The district should decide how much, if any, involvement the secretary should have in the process.
• The election authority now provides the notice required by the Campaign Financing Act.
• The election authority now conducts any necessary lotteries for simultaneous filers.
• The election authority now receives and files objections to nominating petitions. Objections are now heard by the county officers electoral board. School board members no longer have any duties in regard to objections.
• Withdrawal of candidacy forms are now filed with the election authority.
• The district secretary no longer certifies candidates to the election authority.
To be clear, the only duties that remain the responsibility of the school board secretary involve referenda, whether generated by a school board resolution or by a voter petition. The secretary certifies these items to the election authority and receives any objections. Objections are forwarded to the county officers electoral board.
In the past IASB has provided regional workshops for district secretaries outlining the various election duties. These workshops will not be offered this year; however, IASB is offering a number of ways to learn about the new requirements. Guidance has been developed by Melinda Selbee, IASB’s General Counsel, and Alan Mullins, attorney for Scariano, Himes and Petrarca, Chtd. This document is available now via the IASB website at www.iasb. com/elections/ElectionFAQ2014.pdf.
The IASB board development staff is also developing a training video that will be available this summer. Our communications department is developing both web-based and printed materials that will be available to districts in early fall. And, of course, these changes will be the topic of many discussions at the secretaries’ program at the 2014 Joint Annual Conference, Nov. 21-22, in the Swissotel in Chicago.
In addition to these efforts, a member of our governmental relations department is working with the County Clerks and Recorders Association to share our knowledge about school board elections with county clerks across the state. While this group is well versed in election code requirements, a number of requirements for school elections are found in the school code. County clerks may not be as familiar with those statutes. Therefore, district secretaries should not be surprised if they receive calls from their county clerk with questions about ballot format, residency requirements, election to fill a vacancy on the board, and any number of other items specific to school board elections.
While this is new to all of us, each member of the IASB staff stands ready to answer questions at any time. As always, if we don’t know the answer to your question we will find it, or direct you to the appropriate source.
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