This has left several residents asking what the next steps are in filling a Council vacancy. To address these concerns, City Attorney Amy Beattie has compiled this FAQ for reference:
Q. What options does a Council have to file a vacancy?
A. Iowa Code Section 372.13 provides two ways that a Council can fill a vacancy. A vacancy in an elective city office during a term of office can be filled, at the Council's option, by either appointment by the remaining members of the Council or by special election.
Please note that the Council can call a special election without a petition being filed requesting that election. However, the Council must call a special election if a petition is filed in accordance with the requirements set out below.
Q. What is the procedure for appointing to fill a vacancy?
A. After making the decision that it wants to appoint, the Council publishes a Notice in the manner required by Iowa Code Section 362.3 stating that the Council intends to fill the vacancy by appointment but that the electors of the City have the right to file a petition requiring that the vacancy be filed by special election.
The Notice may be published in advance if a resignation is submitted to take place at a later date. The Council may make the appointment to fill the vacancy after the Notice is published or after the vacancy occurs whichever is later. However, if within fourteen days after publication of the Notice, or within 14 days after the appointment is made, there is filed with the city clerk a petition requesting a special election the appointment is temporary and the Council is required to call for a special election.
Q. If a vacancy is filled by appointment when does the appointment end? A. The person appointed to fill a vacancy will serve from the date sworn in until his or her successor is sworn in after the next pending City election in November 2013.
Q. How long does the Council have to make an appointment?
A. An appointment must be made within 40 days after the vacancy occurs, so on or before July 20, 2012.
Q. Can the Council person who has submitted his or her resignation vote on the question of whether to fill the vacancy by appointment or by election?
A. The Iowa Code does not prohibit the Council person from voting if that vote is taken while he or she is still in office.
Q. Can the Council person who has submitted his or her resignation vote on who is appointed to file the vacancy?
A. The Iowa Codes specifies that the appointment to fill the vacancy be made by the REMAINING members of the Council; so the person vacating the position cannot vote on the appointment.
Q. How many signatures are needed on a petition requesting a special election to fill the vacancy?
A. The Iowa Code requires, in a city the size of Ankeny, that the petition(s) contain at least 1,000 or at least the number of signatures equal to fifteen percent of the voters who voted for candidates for the office at the preceding regular election at which the office was on the ballot, whichever number is fewer.
We have obtained the following calculation from the Polk County Election Office on that number, which is 315:
Regular City Election - November 8, 2011
Registered Voters - 30,083
Ballots Cast - 2,098
Turnout % - 6.97%
Craig E. Block = 1,382
Mark Holm = 1,088
Jim McKenna = 1,271
Tom Strait = 790
Gary L. Welch = 778
Write In = 63
Under Votes = 922
Total = 6,294 / 3 = 2,098
As of 2010 Ankeny population = 45,582, (2011 population #s are not available. They should be available within the next 2 months.)
2098 x 15% =314.7 (Round up) = 315 Signatures Required
Q. Is there a standard petition form?
A. The Polk County Election Office has provided the attached form.
Q. What is the filing deadline for a petition?
A. The petition must be filed with the city clerk within 14 days after publication of the Notice of intent to appoint or within 14 days after the appointment is made, whichever is later.
Q. When would a special election be held?
A. If a special election is held to fill a vacancy in a city office, the election may not be held on the following dates:
- A Tuesday during a blackout period before or after a primary or general election;
- A day where there is another election being held for a different political subdivision that involves the same voters (e.g. a school election); and
- A city with a primary election provision cannot have a special election to fill a vacancy at the time of the general election.
The Council can set the date of the election for any date in August. With the parameters set out above, we have generally discussed with the Polk County Election Office holding the special election on August 14, 2012. If there are more than two candidates running a primary will be required.
A primary has to be held on the Tuesday that is 28 days prior to the special election date. The Election Office suggested that the primary, if any, be held on July 17, 2012. If there is no county-wide election on the date of a primary or special election, the City will be responsible for all costs associated with the primary and election.
Q. Are there any standards for the petition?
A. The Iowa Code does not contain any standards the city clerk is supposed to follow to assess the validity of the petition; however, Iowa Code Section 362.4 indicates the petition must be accepted on its face. If a petition is accepted by the city clerk, it is valid unless an objection is filed with the city clerk within five working days after it is received. If an objection is received, the process in Iowa Code Section 44.4 must be followed.
Q. What is the deadline for holding a special election?
A. The special election must be held at the earliest practicable date but no later than 90 days after the vacancy occurs.
Q. What notice must be given to the Election Office?
A. If the city has a primary election provision, notice to the Election Office must be given at least 60 days before the special election date. For all other cities, notice to the Election Office must be given at least 32 days before the special election date.
We have already been in contact with the Polk County Election Office to alert the office that there may be a special election. However, on or after June 1, 2012 but at least 60 days before the date chosen for the special election, the city clerk will give formal written notice to the Election Office. If the special election is held on August 14, 2012 the written notice must be given to the Election Office by June 15, 2012.
Q. What must a person who wants to run for the vacancy present to the City Clerk?
A. In primary and runoff cities, candidates must file petitions containing signatures of eligible electors equal in number to at least two percent of those who voted to fill the same office at the last regular city election but no less than 10. The number of signatures required to submit a petition to run in this special election is 42.
In working with the Election Office, we have confirmed the following dates if the special election is held on August 14, 2012:
- Candidate filing starts with the City Clerk – As soon as notice is given to the Election Office.
- Candidate filing deadline – 53 days prior to the election for Primary Cities so by 12:00 PM on June 22, 2012.
- Affidavit of Candidacy and Nomination Papers delivered to Election Office – June 22, 2012 by 5:00 PM.
- Objection deadline – June 25, 2012 by 12:00 PM. 50 days prior to the election.
- Withdrawal deadline – June 25, 2012 by 5:00 PM. 50 days prior to the election.
Q. Can a temporary appointment be made for the period between when the vacancy occurs and the election?
A. The Iowa Code only provides for a temporary appointment if the Council makes the decision to appoint rather than hold a special election, an appointment is made and then a petition is received for a special election within 14 days after the appointment.
Q. If a special election is held how long does the council person elected to fill the vacancy serve?
A. The council person elected by special election to fill a vacancy will serve for the remaining balance of the unexpired term which will be through December 31, 2015. The council person elected will be sworn in after certification of the election by the Polk County Board of Supervisors which should be one week after the special election.