A change in Iowa voter law will merge the date of school board and municipal elections to the first Tuesday in November. In 2017, the Iowa Legislature moved the school board election date, which had traditionally been the second Tuesday in September during odd numbered years, to coincide with municipal elections held the first Tuesday in November. The change was made in an effort to boost participation from the electorate in school board elections, which typically see less than ten percent of the registered voters casting their ballot at the polls. As a result, the consolidated filing dates for local City Council and School Board candidates will open on Monday, August 26 and close at 5 PM on September 19.
Depending on the office being sought, a candidate must be an eligible elector in the city or school district in which they reside at the time of filing nomination papers and at the time of the election. An eligible elector meets all requirements to register to vote but does not have to be registered to vote.
An eligible elector must be:
- A citizen of the United States
- A resident of Iowa
- At least 18 years old
An eligible elector may not:
- Be a convicted felon, unless voting rights have been restored by the president or governor
- Be currently judged incompetent to vote by a court
- Claim the right to vote in any other place
The process for filing nomination papers varies slightly for school board and city council candidates.
Four seats on the Union Community Schools Board of Directors will be filled in November. Those seats are currently being held by Corey Lorenzen (At-Large), Cathy Niebergall (District #4), Brandon Paine (District #1) and Jenna Scott (District #3).
Each candidate for Union Community Schools Board of Directors must file an affidavit of candidacy and nomination petitions with the school board secretary at the district office, located at 200 Adams Street in La Porte City. The affidavit of candidacy and nomination petitions must be filed together or they will be rejected. Copies of nomination papers are available at the School Board Secretary’s office, Black Hawk County Election Office (2nd Floor of the Courthouse), or on the Secretary of State’s website: http://sos.iowa.gov/elections/electioninfo/SchoolElections.html.
In addition to the affidavit of candidacy, a nomination petition containing a minimum number of signatures from eligible voters must also be filed. The minimum number of signatures needed depends on the number of registered voters in the school district as of May 1, 2019. For school districts with fewer than 1,000 registered voters, the minimum number of signatures is 10. For school districts with more than 1,000 registered voters, the minimum number of signatures is 1% of the number of registered voters or 50, whichever is less. Candidates may contact the school board secretary or county election office for the minimum number of signatures needed to complete the nomination petition.
In school districts like Union, where directors must reside in a specific director district but are voted upon by the entire school district, the number of signatures needed is calculated from the number of registered voters in the entire school district. Petition signers may live anywhere in the school district.
The Secretary of State’s office recommends, as a matter of best practice, that candidates file more than the required number of signatures, since it is possible for signatures to be challenged. If, in the process of collecting signatures for a petition, there are some that should not be included, candidates may simply draw a line through those names and those signatures will not be counted.
Nomination papers can be filed in person or mailed to the school. However, the school board secretary must receive mailed nomination papers by 5 PM on September 19, 2019, regardless of postmark date.
In November, three seats on the La Porte City City Council will be filled. They are currently being held by Jasmine Gaston, Brett Hakeman and Kristi Harrill.
Candidates for the La Porte City City Council must also file an affidavit of candidacy and nomination petition. Copies of the necessary nomination papers are available at City Hall, the Black Hawk County Election Office, or on the Secretary of State’s website: https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/electioninfo/cityelections.html.
Candidates for City Council must also collect signatures from eligible electors to complete their nomination petition. State law mandates that in cities like La Porte City, with a population between 100 and 3,499, a minimum of 10 (ten) signatures is required.
In the case of municipal elections, nomination papers must be filed with the county auditor’s office. In addition to filing in person, nomination papers may also be submitted by mail. When filing by mail, postmark dates are irrelevant, as all papers not received by the county auditor by 5 PM on September 19, 2019 are deemed invalid. If candidates would like to be contacted when their nomination papers have been received, they should indicate that when they mail their papers and include a daytime phone number at which they can be reached.
The Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s Office is available to assist with questions about the filing process and to provide lists of registered voters. For more information, call 1-888-SOS-VOTE or (515) 281-0145. You may also send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or logon to http://sos.iowa.gov/elections/candidates/index.html.
While the new law is designed to increase voter participation in school board elections, the consolidation with municipal elections won’t necessarily be more cost effective for taxpayers. County auditors typically bill school districts for the cost of school board elections, which includes poll worker fees, printing costs and other expenses, and then cities for the city elections. School board elections have traditionally been cheaper to conduct because polls were often open for a shorter number of hours than municipal elections. Additionally, the number of school board election polling locations has frequently been fewer. Because of this, some voters in school districts spanning multiple counties have been required to cast their school board ballots at different locations than their usual general election precincts. And since the new law encourages all precincts to remain open from 7 AM to 8 PM on Election Day, that means Union could receive a bill for those extended hours from each of the four counties it serves- Black Hawk, Tama, Benton and Buchanan.