Help Voters to Be Informed About School Board Candidates
When your local voters work their way down the ballot to the school board race, how much will they know about the candidates before casting that vote?
PTA can and should play a role in helping our members and the community make informed choices.
While PTA never takes a position supporting or opposing candidates, it is perfectly within our purview to organize a candidate forum or publish responses to a candidate questionnaire. These activities are intended to let the candidates speak for themselves and let the voters judge whom they find best qualified.
When you are getting ready to present a candidate forum or prepare a candidate questionnaire, keep the following principles in mind:
Absolute fairness and identical timing: Every candidate is mailed a forum invitation or questionnaire on the same day by certified mail with a return receipt for proof. The Orange County Registrar of Voters should have the addresses of all the candidates.
Full disclosure is key: Be very clear about what PTA entity is sponsoring your activity and who the contact person is. Where and how will a questionnaire be published? Will a forum be recorded or filmed? Candidates deserve to know the answers to these questions.
Clear rules: Time limits and order of responses in a forum should be described in your invitation. Length limits for the written questionnaire responses also should be spelled out ahead of time.
A planning committee and moderator without bias: The PTA leaders most involved with planning these events should not be closely associated with any of the election campaigns. A moderator is often brought in from out of the area (perhaps a nearby council) to assure impartiality. You may also contact your local League of Women Voters, whose members are trained to run and moderate candidate forums.
There is more detailed information about candidate forums in the CA PTA toolkit, page 116, 4.3.2 Candidates Forum.