School Board Elections- How They Work

Or rather, how they should work. I should begin with the reminder that while the election should happen every year, it does not always (one might go so far as to say that having one is a rarity). Why not? Because an election is not required if there are not more candidates than vacancies. If the candidates and vacancies are equal, those running are simply elected by acclamation.

Are we going to have an election? Truly, we don’t know until the deadline for candidates to file is past, and even then, we’ll probably only have an accurate answer after the deadline to drop out of the race is past.

When will the election be? Two ways to find out:

  • First: check out Montana Code Annotated and find the section determining the date
  • Second: Get the Election Calendar from Montana’s Office of Public Instruction

Using the Election Calendar- because it will have the dates for this year- it appears that election day will be Tuesday, May 2nd.

Who’s responsible for arranging the election? There’s a lot of pretty specific who does what, when, information in both the law, and in OPI’s handbook. It appears the primary party is the “election administrator” which would refer to the school clerk unless the district requests otherwise (in which case, it would be the Lincoln County Election Administrator).

Who can run? Anyone registered to vote in the district (though there are some constraints on who can be a trustee- not anyone employed by the district, for example)

When can a candidate file? To be on the ballot this year, a candidate must file between December 8, 2022 and March 23, 2023.

Who can vote? To be qualified to vote the person must be

  • Registered to vote as required by law
  • 18 years of age or older
  • A resident of the state of Montana and the county in which the district is located for at least 30 days
  • A United States Citizen
  • Not a felon currently in a penal institution or someone adjudicated to be of unsound mind.

Is voting in person? The laws read like it’s expected to be, but the board or election administrator can request it be done by mail, though since the deadline for that appears to be March 3rd, this year’s should be in-person.

When do we find out who won? By May 26th- which is also the date by which the trustees must hold the organizational meeting, deciding on board chair and appointing the district clerk. (Or sooner, I suppose, if there aren’t enough candidates.)

A related note: There are a lot of elections we should be having every year. You may have received your notice of the Annual Meeting for Lincoln Electric (April 1st) this year- in the past, that’s been the time when trustee elections were held. Since members voted to allow mail-in ballots, your notice included a mail-in ballot (complete by the 27th- though really, as there aren’t more candidates than vacancies, there probably isn’t much reason to do so other than the promised prize drawing).

It’s a pity so many of our elections are by acclamation- it turns elections into a rarity instead of an expectation and makes it far easier for us to forget that we are supposed to have elections.

2 thoughts on “School Board Elections- How They Work”

  1. Thank you Sam! Why not allow the citizens to vote even if the positions are not contested. This happens a lot in Lincoln County elections. The citizens would then own the election. Jim

    James Carlton 970-443-8651



  2. Well said, Sam! I’m wondering how a candidate would present their intention to run and how they would express what their personal intentions and goals might be while serving in the Board? And I’m also still of the opinion that announcements about this or any opportunities to speak to the candidates be published not only in the Mountain Ear but on the billboard as well as the PO bulletin board. That billboard gets seen both ways and is a perfect announcement opportunity. EVERYONE has to drive by it for one reason or another.

    Also, what can I do to support this effort?


    Sent from my iPad in the Rockies Diane Hackett Carlton 🐝 214-668-0662



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