Q: We held an election for school board members in the November 2018 elections. We had one incumbent win and one newly elected trustee. What are the proper steps moving forward to swear in the new and re-elected board members?
A: Good news! The procedures are the same regardless of whether the board members are re-elected incumbent trustees or newly elected trustees. There are four main steps that must occur after the election before the board members may assume the duties of office: (1) canvass the election results, (2) issue a certificate of election, (3) file a statement of officer, and (4) administer the oath of office.
Satisfaction of these steps is called “qualifying for office.” First, the election must be canvassed at a properly-posted open meeting. The canvass is the final step of the election which finalizes the results. For the November 2018 election, the canvass for school board elections must occur between the third and fourteenth day after the election—in other words, November 9 through November 20. Tex. Elec. Code § 67.003. If a recount is requested, the canvass continues, but the canvassing authority must make note of the request, and the recount petition will delay the next step and thus the qualification for office. Second, after the results are canvassed, the presiding officer will issue a Certificate of Election to each of the newly-elected (and/or re-elected) officers. The certificate will contain the name of the candidate and the position to which s/he is elected, the date of the election, a statement that the term is unexpired, and the signature of the officer preparing the certificate along with any District seal. Tex. Elec. Code § 67.016. The certificate may be issued at the same meeting in which the votes are canvassed. This certificate shows that the candidate has in fact been elected to the position. Third, the newly elected (and/or re-elected) officers must file a Statement of Officer declaring that s/he did not pay, offer, or promise to pay money or other consideration for votes, as required by the Texas Constitution. Tex. Const. art. XVI, § 1(b). Once these three steps have been completed, the newly elected (and/or re-elected) members may take the Oath of Office. The Oath of Office may be administered by anyone with the authority to administer an oath in Texas. The full list of those authorized to administer oaths can be found at Chapter 602 of the Texas Government Code, and includes notary publics, a judge, retired judge, or senior judge, a justice of the peace, a clerk of a court record, and a legislator or retired legislator, among others. Additionally, although many candidates often wait until a board meeting or special ceremony to be sworn in, they are not required to wait and can be sworn in at any time after the other three requirements have been met, so long as it is by someone authorized to administer an oath in Texas.
As a final note, once all candidates have been qualified for office and sworn in, the members must organize at the next meeting by selecting a board president, secretary, and other officers and/or committees the board deems necessary. Tex. Educ. Code § 11.061. Once these events have occurred, the school board is ready to move forward with the newly elected trustees.