This year, the Ottumwa School District has fifteen candidates who have filed affidavits of candidacy and nomination petitions to run for the school board. September 19th was the deadline to file these papers before the November 5th school board election. On September 24th, the district received objections to the form of nomination papers on seven of these candidates. The issue cited in the complaint was noncompliance with a new requirement introduced this year for the nomination petitions.
The nomination petition is the form that interested candidates use to provide their personal information and obtain signatures from Ottumwa school district residents nominating them to participate in the election. All candidates completed the candidate information section and obtained at least 50 signatures - the minimum number of signatures required from eligible electors of the Ottumwa school district. In addition, the nomination petition now includes a section at the bottom of the form where the “Nomination Petition Circulator” is to enter their name, address, phone number, and signature. The Iowa Code requires that this section be at the top of the form, not the bottom where it was placed by the Iowa Secretary of State. The seven candidates whom the objections were filed against completed this section of the form when a third person gathered the signatures on the candidate’s behalf but not when the candidates themselves collected the signatures. The objections were directed at nomination petitions that were completed by the candidate themselves that did not contain this information.
The district promptly followed the necessary steps as required by Iowa Code section 277.5 to consider the objections. The School Board established an objections committee consisting of the board vice president, board secretary, and one other member of the board. The committee held a hearing. During the committee hearing, the objector stated his concerns. Then, each of the seven candidates provided an explanation of their efforts. Each candidate explained that they were told this “circulator” section of the petition form was not necessary when they did not rely on a third party to assist them while gathering signatures. At the hearing, all parties including the objector stated that there was no fraudulent behavior on the part of any of those running for office. The only issue was how the petition forms were filled out.
The Objections Committee listened to all information provided, considered the circumstances, and voted to recommend that the objections be overruled and that all candidates were eligible to participate in the school board election. The objections committee recommendation was put forth to the Ottumwa Board of Education at a special session on September 30th where the School Board approved and directed that each of the candidate’s affidavit of candidacy and nomination petition be delivered to the Wapello County Auditor and that their names will be placed on the ballot for the November school board election.
The Ottumwa Community School District thanks all candidates for choosing to volunteer a substantial amount of their time to participate in the election process and for their willingness to serve their community by serving on the school district board of education.