To help our clients navigate the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Keane & Beane is providing Legal Alerts on a variety of issues as they are presented. The information contained in this Legal Alert is applicable as of today, May 1, 2020.
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Executive Order 202.26
On May 1, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order (EO) 202.26, which, among other things, scheduled an adjourned date of June 9, 2020 for the annual district meeting. Please note that in the absence of any change to timelines specified in the Order, they remain unchanged.
Election Date and Notice
As noted above, by EO 202.26, Governor Cuomo has scheduled the adjourned annual district meeting to June 9, 2020. That date is to be deemed the statewide uniform voting day. Notice of the annual meeting must be published two times (rather than the usual four times) in two newspapers having general circulation, or one newspaper if two are not available, no later than twenty-eight (28) days before the election (rather than the usual forty-five (45) days). Based upon this requirement, the first publication date must be on or before May 12, 2020. The legal notice must also provide for an adjourned budget hearing. As EO 202.26 does not specifically address timing of the budget hearing, it should be held, as usual, between seven and fourteen days before the June 9, 2020 adjourned annual meeting. School districts must also send out a postcard notice that details the date of the election, date of the budget hearing, the definition of a qualified voter, and an absentee ballot with postage paid return envelope (see below).
Voting by Absentee Ballot Only
EO 202.26 further provides for the budget election and vote to be held remotely by absentee ballot only. The Order temporarily suspends and modifies Education Law §§ 2018-a and 2018-b to provide that the potential of contracting the COVID-19 virus is to be deemed a temporary illness. The Order also requires that, for any election held on or before June 30, 2020, every eligible voter be sent an absentee ballot with a postage paid return envelope.
Nomination of Candidates for the Board of Education
EO 202.26 provides for the elimination of any minimum threshold of signatures to qualify as a candidate to be a board trustee. Individuals must meet all other requirements to be placed on the ballot, including applicable residency and age requirements. Petitions are due thirty days prior to the election, or May 11, (twenty days prior to the election in small city school districts, or May 20). Candidates will be listed on ballots alphabetically. Ballots for small city school districts shall be set thirty (30) days before the election, that is May 11, 2020.
School District Report Cards
School District report cards are to be submitted to the State Education Department (SED) no later than eighteen (18) days prior to the date of the election (instead of the usual twenty-four (24) days), that is by May 22, 2020. SED must make its compilation available electronically no later than June 2, 2020.
School District Public Libraries and Public or Association Libraries
EO 202.26 also provides that Education Law §§ 259 and 260 are modified to provide that, for any library election held on or before July 1, 2020, any requirement for a voter to apply for an absentee ballot is eliminated; rather, each eligible voter will be mailed an absentee ballot with a postage paid return envelope.
The Order modifies Education Law § 260 to the extent necessary to permit public libraries established and supported by a school district to re-notice an election. Any such election will be conducted by absentee ballot in conjunction with the school district’s process, or independently using the guidelines created for the school district’s absentee ballot process. Any such vote may be managed by the library or the school district, at the library’s request. As is the case for school board trustee candidates, library trustee candidates shall have no minimum threshold of signatures to qualify for the ballot. Candidates will have to meet all other requirements imposed pursuant to Education Law § 260.
Further, EO 202.26 provides that applicable school ballot funding propositions for public or association libraries may take place on the absentee ballot used to administer the school district’s budget vote.
Consult Counsel Regarding Specific Questions
If you have any questions or concerns regarding Executive Order 202.26 or this legal alert or require further assistance with this topic, please feel free to contact Susan Fine, Suzanne Volpe or the Education Law Practice attorney with whom you usually work.
Prior Keane & Beane Covid-19 Legal Alerts
Keane & Beane, P.C. has prepared several Legal Alerts concerning the Federal and State response to COVID-19 and the impacts on employers and local governments. Our Legal Alerts are available here.
 The thirtieth day before the election is May 10; however, as this falls on a Sunday, the due date is May 11.