School board updated on absentee ballot issue

GLENDALE — The City Council's recent change to the process by which completed absentee ballot applications for municipal elections are returned to the city does not automatically affect the Glendale Unified School District board of education, Glendale City Atty. Scott Howard told the school board on Tuesday.

But under the new ordinance, the city may compel the school district to comply with the new rule if board and council elections are combined, he said.

The ordinance, which the City Council approved on Feb. 19, prohibits candidates in municipal elections, and any third-party group, from collecting the completed applications, requiring instead that they go directly to the city clerk.

Before the ordinance, candidates were allowed to distribute the applications to prospective voters with a return address to candidates' offices, where they could hold on to them for up to 72 hours before sending them to the City Clerk's office.

But what is clear under the new ordinance, City Atty. Scott Howard told the board, is that this ordinance “does not automatically apply to the board of education or its elections.”

It could affect the board of education if its members decide to consolidate the school board election with the City Council's, he said. That consolidation entails holding the elections on the same day and sharing the cost.

When the school board decides that it wants to consolidate its election with the City Council election, the board submits a resolution to that effect to the City Council for its approval, Howard said.

The City Council could then ask the board of education to abide by the new provisions regarding the completed absentee ballot applications, Howard said. But whether the ordinance requires the board to comply was still unclear, he said.

It appears that the City Council has this authority, he said, but he stressed that he was not yet certain.

Because this city ordinance has been controversial — with local groups such as the Armenian National Committee, among others, arguing that it is discriminatory — it's not clear what stance the City Council will take when it comes to how the ordinance may impact the school board, Howard said.

“This is certainly not a procedural issue that everyone agrees with,” he said.

The school board holds its elections in April of odd-numbered years. Generally, the school board submits its resolution on consolidation to the City Council in the November or December that precedes the election.

If the City Council were to stipulate conditions that the school board did not agree with, the school board has the option of holding its own election at its own expense, Howard said.

“At the same time that we were running our own election, you would be running your own election, at your cost,” Howard said.

In that scenario, school board candidates would not be subject to the new ordinance, Howard said.

The update from the city on the ordinance was important so that people associated with the school district could understand its potential ramifications, board member Nayiri Nahabedian said.

“It's vital that parents and those involved with the district get to hear from you how this may or may not impact them,” Nahabedian said.

The school board would likely want to continue to consolidate its election with other municipal elections, Nahabedian said.

Board president Greg Krikorian said he would have liked to have seen the City Council reach out to the school board on this issue earlier.

“Obviously, I know we don't have a vote, but it would be good to have a voice on these things,” Krikorian said.

Supt. Michael Escalante suggested that the school board members discuss the ordinance at a later meeting so that the board has a clear stance on what it favors when going into any discussions with the city.


?ANGELA HOKANSON covers education. She may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at angelahokanson@latimes.com.

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