With the deadline rapidly approaching for submission of candidates’ petitions for the November school board election, a review of some of the basic requirements for board membership and the school election process is appropriate.
What is the filing deadline for candidate nominating petitions?
The deadline for filing candidate-nominating petitions for the April school election is 4 p.m. of the 50th day preceding the election. For the November general election, the filing deadline is 4 p.m. on the last Monday in July. For the 2019 November general election, that date is July 29, 2019.
What are the legal requirements to become a school board member?
Each member of any board of education shall, according to N.J.S.A. 18A:12-1:
- Be a United States citizen;
- Be a resident of the district for at least one year at the time of election or appointment;
- Be able to read and write;
- Be a registered voter in the district where the person is submitting the nominating petition;
- Not be “disqualified” as a voter pursuant to N.J.S.A. 19:4-1
- Not be convicted of any of the crimes or offenses enumerated in N.J.S.A. 18A:12-1 or conspiracy to commit or attempt to commit any of said crimes.
When must these requirements be met?
The following requirements apply to membership on the board, not to candidacy: citizenship, the ability to read and write, not being disqualified as a voter, an absence of convictions for disqualifying enumerated crimes or offenses, and an absence of disqualifying conflicts with and/or claims against the board. These requirements must be met at the time the individual is sworn into office.
The requirement of one-year residency in the district must be met by the date of election or appointment. An individual must be a registered voter before the deadline for filing the nominating petition.
In Algarin v. Haledon Bd of Educ., 408 N.J. Super. 266 (Law Div. 2009) a candidate for election mistakenly certified on her petition that she was a registered voter when, in fact, her name was stricken from the voter rolls due to inactivity. The New Jersey Superior Court dismissed the challenge to her petition because she registered as a voter prior to filing her petition with school election officials as required by law. While the court acknowledged that it was improper for the individual to sign her petition without first verifying that she was a registered voter, the court also noted that the election laws are to be liberally construed so as to effectuate their purpose. The election laws should not be construed to deprive voters of their franchise or so as to render an election void for technical reasons.
Can a candidate file petitions for both a full term vacancy and a partial term vacancy?
No. The petition requires that the candidate swear that the candidate agrees to accept and serve as a board member if elected. Since the candidate can only hold one position on a board of education if elected, the candidate may file for only one vacancy. Nothing would prevent a candidate from filling out more than one nominating petition, but only one can be filed with the county clerk.
Can candidates run as a slate?
Yes. Board of education candidates are now permitted to be bracketed with other school board candidates of their choice on the election ballot. Two or more candidates may file a joint petition that may include a designation of not more than three words that conveys the principles that the candidate or candidates therein named represent. The designation shall not contain the name, or any derivative or any part thereof, as a noun or an adjective of any political party entitled to participate in a primary election. Brackets are counted as one ballot when the drawing for ballot positions occurs on Aug. 12.
For a more extensive look at the school election process, the NJSBA Legal and Labor Relations Department has prepared a frequently asked questions document that can be found here.