February 24, 2012

By: Alan M. Mullins

There have been substantial changes to the School Code and the Election Code that affect the candidate process for school board elections.  Effective immediately, school board members will no longer be involved in the electoral process.  That is good news for school districts as they will no longer have to devote employee time and district money to various electoral duties.  The changes bring a bit of a burden to school board candidates, however, as they will no longer have the convenience of filing nomination paper s at the local school district office. Instead, the petitions must be filed at the county clerk’s or board of election commissioners’ office. If a school district is located in more than one county, the nomination papers are filed with the county clerk or county board of election commissioners of the county in which the school district administrative offices are located.    In addition, other proceedings such as candidate lotteries and objection hearings will also be conducted at those less convenient offices.

Even with these statutory changes, the receipt showing that the candidate filed a statement of economic interests with the county clerk must be filed with the county clerk or the board of election commissioners along with the nomination petitions. The former requirement of filing this receipt with the school district has been eliminated. And as before, it is not enough that incumbent board members filed a statement of economic interests with the county clerk earlier in the year, the receipt still needs to be file d with the county clerk during the filing period.

The School Code previously provided that school districts could make petition forms available for candidates and give notice of the petition filing period.  Now it provides that those courtesies may be extended by the county clerk or the county board of election commissioners. With the recent changes, however, the General Assembly failed to prohibit school districts from continuing to provide these courtesies. Thus, school districts can continue to extend those courtesies if they wish.  In light of the changes to the School Code and Election Code, there will be new nomination forms for the 2015 school board elections.

Before the recent legislative changes, there were a number of duties school districts performed because nomination papers were filed there.  Such duties included conducting a lottery for candidates who simultaneously filed when the doors opened on the first day for filing,  giving candidates certain notices and receipts,  receiving objections and conducting objection hearings,  and certifying candidates.  School districts no longer have these duties.  Objections to nomination papers will now be filed with the county clerk or the county board of election commissioners.  If the school district is located in parts of two counties, the objection hearing might not even be conducted in the county in which the candidate lives.  Additionally, objections will be heard by the county officer’s electoral boards and those boards usually hear objections during daytime hours.  With these changes, it is possible that some potential school board candidates will be deterred from running for office or defending their petitions, or some objectors will be deterred from objecting to petitions.  School board elections rarely want for dramatic flair and with the recent legislative changes, the April 2015 school board elections will certainly be interesting.