Halfway through the filing period, candidates for the November elections have applied to fewer than half the open seats on municipal, school and special district boards, according to San Mateo County’s Elections Office.
“These are the contests that voters should really participate in because they affect your day-to-day lives much more than at the state or federal level,” said county Elections Manager David Tom. “But unfortunately, that’s difficult to convey.”
Applicants only have until Aug. 12 to file their candidacy with the county elections office or city clerk, but 40 percent of the races still don’t have a single contestant.
“The future and livelihood of the county depends upon the willingness of responsible leaders who step forward to offer themselves in service to the public,” chief Elections Officer Mark Church stated in a news release this month.
Many applicants will wait until the last minute to file, Tom said, but due to a lack of candidates, a number of elections will never make it to the ballot. Races in which there are fewer or the same number of candidates as open seats will not appear on the ballot, according to election code. Such uncontested seats are filled by the governing board.
For instance, not a single candidate yet seeks to serve on the West Bay Sanitary District, which has three vacancies. The district, which has oversight on sewer lines for Atherton, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Portola Valley, Redwood City and Woodside, was recently sued by the nonprofit environmental group Baykeeper for causing sewage spills by failing to keep up its pipes.
“Unfortunately, public service is not always something that people think about,” Tom said. “It’s very noble, but … it’s a lot of work.”