[author: Brian Crowley]
With guest blogger Scott Metcalf
There is confusion and concern about how school districts should handle receiving nominating petitions and objections to petitions for the 2013 school board elections. The Election Code says that school board nominating petitions must be filed between December 17 and 24, 2012. Objections to nominating petitions must be filed within five business days after December 24.
Many school districts intend to be closed at some point during the weeks of December 24 and December 31 (which both fall on Mondays this year). But, the law says certain things and doesn’t say others.
First, while the Election Code requires the office in which petitions are filed to remain open until at least 5:00 p.m. on December 24, the law does not specify how long the offices must be open before 5:00 p.m. In our opinion there is no legal requirement that the office be open for a specific number of hours, only that it be open until 5:00 p.m. Second, nothing requires a school district to open its offices on the five business days after December 24 (i.e., December 26-28, December 31, and January 2). One Illinois Appellate Court has held that the relevant business days for determining when objections are due are the regular business days of the public body that accepts the nominating petitions. The business days of the State Board of Elections would not be relevant for school districts. Thus, a school district could be closed on December 31, but would have to accept objections for one additional day (i.e., the last day for accepting objections would be January 3 instead of January 2).
With that in mind, there are also practical considerations to help the school district avoid unwanted problems. For example, it is a good idea to open the school district’s offices on those days identified by the State Board of Elections as the last day to file petitions or objections. For example, we recommend that a school district be open on Tuesday, January 2, 2013 to accept objections, as many objectors may look to the State Board of Elections calendar for guidance on filing objections. Again, if the school district was closed on December 31, it should continue to accept objections on January 3 as well.
There is hope for relief from the December 24 provision of the Election Code. HB6224, introduced on September 10, 2012 by Representative Timothy Schmitz, would change the dates for filing nominating petitions for the Consolidated Election to the 7-day period beginning on the first Tuesday of December. If approved by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor, it would be immediately effective. The General Assembly is currently out of session and it seems doubtful that the bill will be approved in time to impact this election. We will keep you apprised on the status of this bill and other election matters.