Editorial, posted 1/17/12 – I was contacted by a reader today who asked me why it is that nominations for our April 10, 2012 election were closed today for races in which an incumbent was running and tomorrow for races in which an incumbent is not running, when the code governing the election calls for five days difference. As I started looking into it, I discovered that there were others in town who shared the same concern as the reader that contacted me. The reader pointed out that the Government Code section on elections, which governs our election, states that nominations are due by the 88th day prior to the election, which was last Friday, if incumbents filed papers, and if an incumbent didn’t run, then residents had another five days to file nomination papers for a seat in which the incumbent was not running. This would seem to indicate that incumbents needed to file their nomination papers by last Friday, not today, as announced by City Clerk Nancy Shollenberger on Dec. 17, 2011.
Here is the wording to this section of the Code:
10220. Candidates may be nominated for any of the elective offices
of the city in the following manner:
Not earlier than the 113th day nor later than the 88th day before
a municipal election during normal office hours, as posted, the
voters may nominate candidates for election by signing a nomination
paper. Each candidate shall be proposed by not less than 20 nor more
than 30 voters in a city of 1,000 registered voters or more, and not
less than five nor more than 10 voters in a city of less than 1,000
registered voters, but only one candidate may be named in any one
nomination paper. No voter may sign more than one nomination paper
for the same office, and in the event the voter does so, that voter’s
signature shall count only on the first nomination paper filed which
contains the voter’s signature. Nomination papers subsequently filed
and containing that voter’s signature shall be considered as though
that signature does not appear thereon. Each seat on the governing
body is a separate office. Any person registered to vote at the
election, and qualified to vote for the elective office of the city
for which the nomination is made, may circulate a nomination paper.
Only one person may circulate each nomination paper. Where there are
full terms and short terms to be filled, the term shall be specified
in the nomination paper.
10224. All nomination papers shall be filed with the city elections
official during regular business hours as posted, not later than the
88th day before the election. Until that time, but not after, a
candidate may withdraw his or her nomination paper after it is filed
with the elections official as provided in this section.
10225. (a) Notwithstanding Sections 10220 and 10224, if nomination
papers for an incumbent officer of the city are not filed by or on
the 88th day before the election, during normal business hours, as
posted, the voters shall have until the 83rd day before the election
during normal business hours, as posted, to nominate candidates other
than the person who was the incumbent on the 88th day, for that
incumbent’s elective office.
(b) This section is not applicable where there is no incumbent
eligible to be elected. If this section is applicable,
notwithstanding Section 10224, a candidate may withdraw his or her
nomination paper until the 83rd day before the election during normal
business hours, as posted.
Note that all three of the above sections reference either “normal business hours” or “regular business hours.” City Clerk (and election official) Nancy Shollenberger usually works by appointment only, and does not keep regular hours at City Hall (an issue in the 2008 election campaign), so there may be some gray area here, particularly if it can be shown that she has kept appointments outside of City Hall’s posted hours. But since “by appointment” hours are kind of nebulous, using City Hall’s posted hours seems like the logical course of action. Since City Hall was closed on Friday, over the weekend, and on Monday for the holiday, normal business hours ended on Thursday, prior to the 88th day, and began again this morning. So it seems that “normal business hours” in this situation ended at 5pm today.
While the spirit of the law seems to be to give non-incumbents five full days to pull papers and file them after they’ve determined an incumbent is not running again, in this case the letter of the law apparently, due to unusual circumstances, prevented that from happening. Therefore, the City Clerk nominations are now closed, since incumbent Nancy Shollenberger is running, the City Treasurer race closes tomorrow (the 83rd day before the election) at 5pm because incumbent George Enyedi is not running again, and the City Council regular election for incumbent John Buchanan’s seat closes tomorrow, since he is not running. The Special Election seat for the remaining two years of Joe Mosca’s term closes tomorrow as well, since obviously incumbent Joe Mosca is not running.
I’m not an attorney, and there may be folks more qualified than I out there who interpret this differently. It’s possible that someone may still choose to challenge the City Clerk’s interpretation of the Code. But the wording about regular or normal business hours would seem to me to indicate that the deadline is today, the 17th, if we are using City Hall’s hours. We’ll see if anybody chooses to challenge. And maybe we should, again, look at requiring regular posted hours for the City Clerk to conduct business at City Hall.