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Time to Think About Elections

Joel Gerring

By Joel Gerring, MASB Assistant Legal Counsel

DashBoard, April 13, 2016

Election season is closer than you think and it’s never too early to start thinking about the upcoming campaign season. Whether you are an individual up for re-election or a board that may need to recruit candidates, everyone should have a basic understanding of the process and the timetable.

With few exceptions, Michigan school boards consist of seven members elected to serve terms of four or six years, as provided by the district’s bylaws. Elections are held biennially on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of even years (for the 2016 election that will be Nov. 8).

Terms of members are staggered so there are usually three or four seats contested at each biennial election. Vacancies caused by death or resignation are filled by appointment (by the remaining board members) until the next election.

A school board member must be, on the date of the election, an U.S. citizen; at least 18 years of age; a resident of Michigan for at least 30 days; a resident of the school district on or before the 30th day prior to the date of the election; and a registered voter in the school district where he or she is a candidate.

Candidates have the option of paying a nonrefundable filing fee of $100 to the school district filing official instead of filing a nominating petition. If so chosen, prospective candidates may begin to circulate nominating petitions for signatures 180 days prior to the date of filing. Nominating petitions then must be filed no later than 4 p.m. on the 12th Tuesday preceding the date of the election (for the 2016 election, the deadline is July 26). The number of signatures required for the petition depends upon the population of the school district.

A candidate for election to a local or intermediate school board must also file two copies of an Affidavit of Identity. The affidavit must be a written document, signed and sworn before a person having authority to administer an oath, such as a notary public. The affidavit must then be filed together with the candidate’s filing fee or nominating petition at the same office where the fee or nominating petition is filed. Candidates who fail to file an Affidavit of Identity are ineligible to appear on the ballot.

While some candidates may know immediately that they will file papers to run for the school board, others may hesitate in an attempt to determine the level of interest or support for such a run or to see who else may be running for the same seats. That six-month window may be the perfect opportunity to approach a qualified but hesitant candidate. Their decision, in fact, may hinge on such encouragement and interest.

But what about those potential candidates who have not yet thought about school board service? When is it appropriate to approach them? The process of effective recruiting should be ongoing, i.e., throughout the school year and with an eye on the entire community. 

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