January 04, 2021

Appeal to the Commissioner of Education alleges defects in conducting an election of candidates to the school board

In this appeal to the Commissioner of Education* the Petitioner, a disappointed candidate for election to the school board, submitted an appeal to the Commissioner alleging a number of procedural defects in school board's conducting the election including [a] allegations of "improper electioneering;" [b] including the name of a candidate the ballot "ineligible to serve as trustee;" and [c] failing to properly announce or certify the election results."

After initially addressing a procedural issue concerning the nature of a reply to the school district's answer to Plaintiff's petition and explaining "A reply is not meant to buttress allegations in the petition or to belatedly add assertions that should have been in the petition," the Commissioner turned to the merits of the appeal submitted by the Petitioner with respect to issues involving:

1. The Governor's suspension of Education Law §§2002 and 2022 under color of the ongoing state of emergency caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic;

2. §§2018 and 2608 of the Education Law to the extent necessary “to eliminate any minimum threshold of signatures required” for the nominating petition of a candidate seeking election to a board of education;"

3. Voting using absentee ballots and the procedures to be followed related to  declaring a ballot invalid and other any irregularities actually affecting "the outcome of the election or were so pervasive that they vitiated the electoral process;"

4. Recounting ballots in school district elections; and

5. Attacks on the integrity of the tallies and the returns of the inspectors of election, such as a showing of fraud or improper conduct.**

Observing that "It is well settled that mere speculation as to the possible existence of irregularities provides an insufficient basis on which to annul election results," and citing various earlier Decisions of the Commissioner of Education addressing this point, the Commissioner found that Petitioner "failed to carry her burden of proof to annul the election results or compel a recount" and, after explaining the reasons in support of such findings, the Commissioner dismissed the Petitioner's appeal.

In the words of the Commissioner, "Petitioner has failed to meet her burden of proof to establish that any irregularities affected the outcome of the election.  Therefore, there is no basis upon which to order a recount or invalidate the results of the election" and dismissed Petitioner's appeal.

*Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 17,947.

** To the extent the Commissioner did not specifically address an issue raised by Petitioner in her appeal, the Commissioner said that she found such issue "to be without merit."

 Click here to access the text of the Commissioner's decision

 

CAUTION

Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or changes to laws, rules and regulations may have modified or clarified or vacated or reversed the decisions summarized here. Accordingly, these summaries should be Shepardized® or otherwise checked to make certain that the most recent information is being considered by the reader.
THE MATERIAL ON THIS WEBSITE IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. AGAIN, CHANGES IN LAWS, RULES, REGULATIONS AND NEW COURT AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS MAY AFFECT THE ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS LAWBLOG. THE MATERIAL PRESENTED IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE AND THE USE OF ANY MATERIAL POSTED ON THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.
Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material in this blog is presented with the understanding that neither the publisher nor members of the staff are providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to seek such advice from a competent professional.