New Legal Requirement For Election Of School Board Members

A recent change in Missouri election law could affect whether certain school districts must hold elections for their open Board seats in April. This new requirement is especially relevant with the fast approaching January 22nd deadline for school districts to correct any language in the April election ballots.

Prior to this year, if the number of candidates who filed for a Board position was equal to the number of openings on the Board, school districts were not required to hold an election involving those candidates. The statute that directed whether an election was necessary, § 115.124, RSMo., specifically provided that “no election shall be held” in that situation. Unfortunately, that statute has been changed.

Under the statutory change, if a school district has a ballot measure on the ballot, the school district must still hold an election for filed candidates, even if the number of candidates who filed is equal to the number of open Board positions. The following is the relevant language from § 115.124.1, RSMo., which deals with this new Board member election requirement (the new language in the statute is italicized and underlined):

[I]n a nonpartisan election in any political subdivision…if the notice provided for in subsection 5 of section 115.127, RSMo. has been published in at least one newspaper of general circulation…in the district, and if the number of candidates for each office in a particular political subdivision….is equal to the number of positions for each office within the political subdivision,…and no ballot measure is placed on the ballot such that a particular political subdivision will owe no proportional elections costs if an election is not held, no election shall be held, and the candidates shall assume the responsibilities of their offices at the same time and in the same manner as if they had been elected.

If a school district fails to follow the legally required process for the election of Board members, it could face a legal challenge that could prevent or delay Board candidates from taking office. Consequently, if a school district does have a ballot measure on the ballot this April, and the number of candidates who have filed for Board positions is equal to the number of Board positions available, we recommend that the school district contact its local election authority immediately. Local election authorities appear to have taken different positions with regard to the effect of the changes found within § 115.124.1; some believe that an election involving the candidates is necessary while others do not.  We suggest that you discuss the new requirements of § 115.124.1 with your local election authority, and decide whether to make any changes to the proposed ballot language.

If a school district does not have a ballot measure on the ballot, and has an equal number of filed candidates as Board openings, we believe that the school district can handle the situation as it has done in the past. The change in § 115.124, RSMo., does not effect that situation.

If you have any questions about your school district’s upcoming school board elections, please feel free to contact one of our team members at EdCounsel.