First: don’t panic. It is a process, with several steps and time for the board member to respond to any reasons given or accusations. Recall is the process by which members of the public may attempt to remove an elected or appointed school board member from office. A successful recall election leaves the seat vacant, to be filled by board appointment until the next regular election.
Any school board member, elected or appointed, who has served for six months can be recalled. Board members who have served less than six months cannot be recalled. Recall elections are run by the county elections clerk and cost roughly $3,000 - $5,000 for a small to mid-sized district. The school district pays the cost of running the election for the recall of a school board member. It takes approximately four and a half months from the time a petitioner begins the process until the election is concluded.
Here are the recall steps and the timeline:
- The chief petitioner files a recall petition with the county elections clerk. This includes several required forms. SEL 350 is the cover sheet on which the petitioner states in 200 words or less the reasons for demanding the recall. SEL 300 is a signed statement that petition circulators will not be paid. Petition for signature sheets, the actual signing sheets, are SEL 351. SEL 350 must be printed on one side of a page and SEL 351 on the other. Within three business days of spending or receiving any campaign money two other forms: SEL 222, Statement of Organization for Petition Committee and SEL 223, Campaign Account Information must be filed with the Secretary of State, Elections Division. Once approved by the elections official the petitioner can begin gathering signatures.
- In order to place a recall on the ballot the petitioner is required to gather 15% of the total number of votes cast in the electoral district for all candidates for Governor at the last election at which a candidate for Governor was elected to a full term. The following guidelines must be met:
- All signers must be registered voters in the district.
- All signers on any one sheet must be registered in the same county.
- All signatures must be original signatures.
- All signatures must be witnessed by the petition circulator.
- Individuals who circulate petitions (‘circulators’) must not attempt to obtain a signature if they know that person is not qualified to sign it.
- Circulators may not alter, correct or change any information about the signer. They may assist a disabled signer in completing the optional information.
- Circulators must not offer money or anything of value to another person to sign or not sign a petition.
- Circulators must complete the date when the certification is signed.
- The petitioner submits the signatures to the elections official when they have collected the required number of signatures but no later than 5 pm on the 90th day after filing the recall petition. If the date falls on a weekend or holiday the deadline is the following business day.
- The elections official has 10 days to verify the signatures.
- The elections official verifies the original signatures against the voters’ current registration card.
- If the elections official determines there are a sufficient number of verified signatures then the elections official certifies the recall petition. They immediately notify both the chief petitioner AND the board member being recalled.
- The board member subject to recall is given the opportunity to resign or submit a statement of justification not exceeding 200 words within 5 days of the notification.
- If the board member does not resign then a recall election is scheduled.
- The ballot includes a question of recall, and the reasons for the recall exactly as submitted by the chief petitioner on the petition and the public officer’s ‘statement of justification’ in 200 words or less exactly as filed by the pubic officer.
- The recall election must be held within 35 days. Day one begins the day after the last day to resign.
- The elections official delivers the results of the vote no later than the 20th day after the election.
- If the recall election is successful, the vacancy occurs immediately upon delivery of the results.
- The local board then follows their process to fill the vacant seat.
If a majority of seats on a local K-12 board are vacant then the Educational Service District board is responsible for filling the vacant seats. If a majority of seats on an ESD board are vacant due to recall or resignation then they are filled by the county governing body. ORS 332.030(5) ORS 341.335(4).
The appointed board member serves until the next regular election. At that election the public elects citizens to fill the unexpired portion of the term of the recalled and appointed seat.
Recall elections often do long standing damage to districts. Recalls can be extremely divisive and the impact may take years to heal. Before embarking on a recall election petitioners should balance the pros and cons of the cost (both financial and emotional) with the possible benefits of replacing the person in the position.
After the petitioner fills out the paperwork and begins gathering signatures the board member in question should begin to make positive statements supporting the work done while he or she has been in office. The board member can refute the stated reasons for the recall, write letters to the editor and encourage others to do the same. The content of the statements and letters should focus on accomplishments and not make excuses or place blame. Disparaging the petitioners or threatening lawsuits or other retaliatory action will not help the cause. Recognizing the petitioner’s right to run a recall campaign is ‘taking the high road’ and will reflect better on the board member. During the time signatures are being gathered the board member should also focus carefully on board work and behave professionally at meetings, even if challenged by members of the audience.
Recall Manual, Elections Division Secretary of State www.sos.state.or.us
ORS 249.865 – 877
“Total Recall”, Craig Colgan, American School Board Journal, November 2004