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Chicago School Board elections are coming up.  Here’s what happens if a district has no candidates

Chicago School Board elections are coming up. Here’s what happens if a district has no candidates

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat. Sign up for their newsletters at ckbe.at/newsletters

CHICAGO — Chicago’s primary school board election races are heating up. As of Monday, 21 candidates have filed paperwork to appear on the Nov. 5 ballot — with more expected next week.

But there are still a few steps left before the Chicago Board of Elections can solidify who will be on the ballot this November. Candidates must submit 1,000 valid signatures from residents in their district — and their opponents could challenge the validity of those signatures. So what happens if one or more of the 10 district races end up without a candidate on the ballot?

The most likely answer is that a write-in candidate would win the seat — potentially by a single vote, said Max Bever, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections.

By 2027, the new council will have 10 elected seats and another 11 seats appointed by Mayor Brandon Johnson. Each district is divided into two sub-districts; Johnson must fill his seats with people who live in every subdistrict that does not have a winner from the election.

Candidates have until June 24 to submit the necessary documents to appear on the ballot.

Petition signatures can be contested until July 1. Often, a candidate’s opponents will file such objections, but registered voters who live in the candidate’s district can also challenge the signatures.

The electoral commission will consider those objections, which could lead to the declaration of the candidate’s nomination documents as invalid and the triggering of the ballot. Separately, candidates who are considering running right now might decide to drop out.

If a district is not on the ballot on Nov. 5, a write-in candidate could win. But voters can’t write just any name and expect it to count as a vote.

The only votes that are counted for write-in candidates are the names of people who filed a special form with the Chicago Board of Elections by Sept. 5 declaring their intention to be a write-in candidate, Bever said. Candidates trying to get on the ballot who are disqualified due to petition objections can also file to be write-in candidates. If they are removed from the ballot after Sept. 5, they have until Oct. 29 to submit write-in nomination forms.

Write-in candidates must also meet legal requirements to be on the school board, such as being a U.S. citizen and living in the district they want to represent, Bever said.

If no candidate wins, the school board could also fill a vacancy. According to the state law that established Chicago’s elected school board, any vacancy in elected office must be filled by a majority vote of the school board within 30 days of the vacancy.

It is not clear, however, whether this responsibility would fall to the current council or the newly elected one. Election results will not be certified by local authorities until Nov. 26 and by state authorities until Dec. 6, Bever said. Both dates are more than 30 days before the new board is to be sworn in, past the deadline by which a vacancy would have to be filled under state law.

The school board would vote for a person who lives in the district and is qualified to fill the seat. While the law applies to vacancies that occur after an election, it also applies to an office that has never had candidates, Bever confirmed.

Reema Amin is a reporter covering Chicago Public Schools. Contact Reema at [email protected].

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.