With the looming Board of Education elections and budget votes, school districts must contend with the growing public scrutiny surrounding elections. Doing so requires all election personnel to be aware of their duties, as well as limitations of those duties. These duties and limitations vary depending on the type of school district and its registration practices.
While technical irregularities in an election may not always cause its results to be overturned, school districts’ election processes should be beyond reproach from a public perspective standpoint. To that end, please consider the following information when conducting the May 16, 2023, Annual Meeting and General Election:
Only the Election Chairperson can open and close the polls, and must be physically present to do both. The polling location needs to be accessible and “no person shall do any electioneering within the polling place, or within one hundred feet therefrom.” Control of the physical location is pertinent to a successful election. Even the perception of any impropriety on the day of the vote may lead to challenges to the Commissioner.
Besides ensuring sufficient ballots for the anticipated voter turnout, there are a few specific considerations to keep in mind when the Election Inspectors are counting ballots. For non-electronic ballots, the determination of whether to partially or fully void a ballot is made on a case-by-case basis. Regardless of whether the school district conducts the election with voting machines or by paper ballots, the ballot instructions must be clear and any noncompliance by voters must be evaluated for potential voiding prior to counting the vote.
Before any paper ballots are unfolded and tallied, election inspectors must first compare the number of ballots cast to the number of voters recorded on the poll list. If there are more ballots cast at the polling location than individuals who signed into the polls, the Education Law sets forth a specific procedure for addressing the discrepancy.
Election Inspectors appointed by the Board are the only individuals authorized to count votes. School district personnel are not authorized to count votes unless they have been appointed by the Board of Education as election inspectors. Similarly, even the Election Chairperson is not authorized to count votes. With some polls closing later in the night, election inspectors must be prepared to stay as long as necessary to conduct a proper count of the votes and a certification of the results for that polling location.
Often times, members of the public want to observe the tallying of the votes. The public may observe the tallying of the votes but must do so in a way that is not disruptive and does not interfere with the process. Board candidates or their representatives may, but are not required, to be present during the vote count.
Declaring the Results
For school districts using a single polling location, the election results are final when announced that evening. For school districts using multiple polling locations, a different procedure applies. Once the results of an election are declared, there is no authority for school districts to recanvass the results unless ordered to do so by the Commissioner.
This information is in no way exhaustive, and you may have questions on or before May 16, 2023. If you are looking for legal guidance during the upcoming Annual meeting and General Election, we are happy to assist. Contact us by phone at 315-437-7600 and ask for the election team.