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What to Do When You Don’t Have Enough Candidates

Charis Lee

By Charis Lee, Esq., MASB Assistant Director of Labor Relations & Legal Services

DashBoard, Sept. 16, 2020

The filing deadline for this year’s elections has come and gone and some districts do not have enough candidates running to fill all of the expiring terms on their school boards. If your district finds itself in that position, you will likely need to start recruiting individuals who may be interested in being appointed.

Any individual currently occupying an expiring board seat that is up for election this November will continue to serve until Jan. 1. While the process for identifying an appointee to replace that individual can begin as soon as the election results are certified (with no election winner and taking into account the potential of a write-in candidate), any vote to appoint a new board member must take place after the outgoing board member's term has expired, i.e., after Jan. 1. We recommend that the outgoing member remove themselves from the selection process to the extent possible.

In some situations, an individual previously appointed to a board seat may have been unwilling to run for election, but after the election occurs without a candidate for the term that was previously vacated, that individual is willing to remain on as an appointee. In that situation, the law (MCL 168.311) allows the appointee to remain, because a successor to the appointee hasn’t been elected. Unless the bylaws in your district dictate something to the contrary, a current appointee’s term can be extended indefinitely under the law (until an individual is eventually elected to take that seat) without the need to repeat the appointment process or requiring that another oath be administered. In this scenario of course, the seat will be up for election every two years until someone is eventually elected to it.

In addition, given that the official candidacy filing deadline has passed, there is always the option of recruiting a write-in candidate. Write-in candidates must file a “Declaration of Intent” with the local election official by 4 p.m. on the second Friday preceding the election (this year that would be Oct. 23). At that point, if they are the only individual who submitted the appropriate write-in candidacy paperwork, a single vote will get them elected to the board, allowing them to avoid petition signature requirements, filing fees and so forth.

Finally, keep in mind that the law provides 30 days for the local school board to find a replacement board member before the legal authority to fill the vacancy by appointment is transferred to the district’s intermediate school district board of education. To ensure that your board retains its control over this vital aspect of local district governance, it is very important to begin soliciting candidates as soon as possible.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at clee@masb.org or 517.327.5914.

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