On October 15, the below letter was sent from the LSCs.4.All Coalition to the CPS Board of Education and CPS leadership regarding LSC Elections 2020, scheduled for November 18 & 19. The LSCs.4.All coalition includes Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Lugenia Burns Hope Center, Blocks Together, Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education, Chicago Teachers Union, Chicago United for Equity, Northside Action for Justice, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, and Pilsen Alliance. Representative Theresa Mah also signed on. Several UPDATES below the letter.
October 15, 2020
The Members of the Chicago Board of Education
Janice Jackson, Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Public Schools
Guillermo “Willy” Montes de Oca, Director of Local School Council Relations
Dear Members of the Chicago Board of Education, and Chicago Public Schools Leadership,
“The mission of the Board of Education – as it relates to the Local School Council electoral process – is to uphold the letter and intent of the School Reform Act. That important responsibility includes conducting fair citywide elections, providing consistent procedures that foster public trust, and promoting broad-based candidate and voter participation through the city.” - CPS 2020 Local School Council Election Guide
We, as members of the LSCs.4.ALL coalition, as Local School Council (LSC) representatives, parents, school stakeholders and community members, urge the CPS LSC Relations office to produce and make publicly available information about how CPS will conduct the upcoming LSC elections.
With only 34 calendar days to go, the public has very little information about a citywide election. CPS has a constitutional obligation to hold free and equal LSC elections. But the current implementation of LSC elections has not fostered public trust or promoted broad-based candidate and voter participation through the city. In fact, we are not clear on the specific dates or processes that would allow candidates, parents, school community and public to exercise their constitutional rights to engage in the democratic LSC election process.
We understand the COVID-19 global health pandemic presents unprecedented challenges for the entire district. It is why we’ve been engaged with district leadership and sought reliable information about this process since Spring 2020; we’ve offered suggestions, recommendations and supportive best practices. And above all, we understand this important process demands a level of attention that should feel democratic, fair and with clear information, transparency and consistent communication.
Today, we are faced with many unknowns. Many sitting LSC members do not have access to information to inform their school communities, creating confusion and tension at the local school level. Withholding this information from LSCs prevents them from fulfilling their statutory obligation to publicize this information as necessary to maximize the involvement of all eligible voters. In accordance with (105 ILCS 5/34-2.1), and constitutional requirements, CPS must publicly release specific election timeline dates and all relevant information about how it plans to ensure that all eligible voters may participate in the process, including but not limited to:
- Open and accessible Candidate Forums for every school
- A list of candidates running at their local schools
- Candidate literature distribution days
Means for equitable access to parent and community voting whether in-person, mail-in ballot or hybrid options, including:
- Measures to make elections safe for in-person voting
- If there is mail in balloting, measures to ensure safe and equitable access to voting such as secure drop boxes and pre-paid postage
- Community input about feasibility of voting options
- Safeguards to maintain election integrity and racially equitable access to voting options
- Election day poll watchers, how end of vote counts and announcements will be made etc...
The public deserves to hear a full LSC election plan by Monday October 19th, a month from the LSC election. We stand ready to support this process and develop communication strategies to maximize input as the city commemorates this 30th year of Local School Councils.
Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights
Lugenia Burns Hope Center
Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education
Chicago Teachers Union
Chicago United for Equity
Northside Action for Justice
Kenwood Oakland Community Organization
Representative Theresa Mah
Chicago Lawyer' Committee blog: Demanding a Free & Fair Elections for Chicago Local School Councils (LSCs)
FOLLOW UP LETTER, Oct 29
On October 29, we sent this follow up letter regarding LSC Election procedure concerns.
CPS RESPONSE, Nov 4
On Nov 4, we received this response from CPS.
Chicago Lawyers' Committee blog: CPS Agrees to Expand Voter Access in LSC Elections
FOLLOW UP LETTER #2, Nov 11
On November 11, we sent this ongoing LSC Elections concerns letter.
CPS RESPONSE, Nov 16
On Nov 16, we received this response from CPS.
Chicago Lawyers' Committee blog: We Have More Questions For CPS About Next Week's Elections
FOLLOW UP LETTER #3 from Chicago Lawyers' Committee, Nov 17
CLC sent a letter to CPS on Nov 17 regarding the specific issue of notice not being sent to parents/guardians if their mail-in ballots are not counted because the name on the envelope doesn’t match the master list.
FOLLOW UP EMAIL from Chicago Lawyers' Committee, Nov 25
Dear Willy and Myra,
Hope you’re well. I’m reaching out because we have received a number of community questions about how CPS is processing mail-in ballots. These questions raise constitutional due process concerns. Among other things, we’ve received questions about whether election judges will be checking for an exact match between names and the master list (and whether there is guidance about how exact a match a name should be, such as whether shortened versions of the name are acceptable); and how many mail-in ballots were processed on Nov 18/19 (and whether election judges at every school began processing mail-in ballots on election day). As you know, our November 17 letter (reattached here) details some specific constitutional due process concerns about this process; we’re now seeking more information to further clarify what process CPS intends to follow on processing mail-in ballots.
I’m attaching the FOIA request that we submitted today seeking more information. I also wanted to reach out specifically to see if you can clarify the question of whether election judges will be checking for an exact match with names on the master list.
I also wanted to reach out to offer to share best practices from other jurisdictions, compiled with the help of our Voting Rights Project, with respect to handling possible name rejections and the notice-and cure due process procedure for ballots facing rejection for a technical issue. For example, the practice in regular Illinois elections in analogous situations is that a ballot not be discarded unless multiple election judges or election judges of different parties agree that there is a significant enough mismatch that it seems like the person submitting the ballot is not the eligible voter.
We want to do everything we can to help ensure that CPS can make this as fair a process as possible – particularly given the importance of expanded voter access this election due to COVID and the necessity of vote by mail and other forms of access, particularly for voters of color in Chicago. Please let me know what your current guidance is on name matching, and how we can help CPS ensure a fair and constitutional process in this election cycle.
Best wishes for a pleasant and restful Thanksgiving -
CPS RESPONSE, Nov 30
Dear Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights,
I am in receipt of your email dated November 17, 2020, outlining your additional concerns and recommendations for the 2020 Local School Council ("LSC") Elections.
In your correspondence, you have noted that you have concerns about the rejection of mail-in ballots that lack “exact name” matching to the CPS master listing.
The Office of Local School Council Relations (OLSCR) shares your interest in ensuring that every eligible ballot gets counted in this election. Before I explain the verification process, it is important that I clarify a misstatement in your letter. While our election judges have been trained to check for names against a master list, election judges were not directed to reject those that did not have “exact name” matches. There is a two part verification process that includes the following: 1) confirming for the voter name and 2) verifying the mailing address for the voter. The mailing address is used as an additional indicator of the voter’s identity in the event that the name on the mail-ballot is not an exact match or is a derivative of the name. If the name is close enough to the listed name on the master ballot and the address matches the master listing, the mail-in ballot envelope would not be rejected and marked as “defective”.
Please be advised that our Office has done the following to address any potential concerns:
- On Tuesday, November 23, 2020, our office sent reminder guidance to school election coordinators, election judges and school principals on how to process mail-in ballots received at schools.
- On Monday, November 30, 2020 our office sent another guidance document that helps clarify the process for checking names on mail-in ballots and the master list. Judges were given additional direction that they can accept short forms or derivatives of names as well.
- On Monday, November 30, 2020, our office directed all election coordinators and election judges to re-check any previously marked “defective” ballot envelopes to ensure the mail-in ballot envelopes were not marked “defective” incorrectly for lack of an “exact name” match against the master list.
As always, I appreciate your partnership in the process and value your feedback. It is my hope that this additional information has addressed your concerns.
Dr. Guillermo (Willy) Montes de Oca
Director Office of Local School Council Relations
PUBLISHED CPS MATERIALS
CPS New Release How to Participate in 2020 Local School Council Elections
(Released on October 21, 2020) Chicago Public Schools Announces Updates to 2020 LSC Elections | Translated in Spanish
CLC's #LSCElections2020 Hotline
Voters with questions or concerns about the LSC elections can call or text the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee hotline at 262-729-3082 for free and immediate non-partisan assistance. Spanish-language assistance is available upon request, thanks to MALDEF. You can also email email@example.com to share your LSC election story.
Our non-partisan pollwatchers are trained to help answer voters' questions, and to respond in case of electioneering, poll worker misconduct, and other interference with voters’ rights.
Every eligible voter should be able to cast their ballot in the LSC elections on Nov. 18 and 19.
CLC's #LSCElections2020 Hotline Part 2; Shared by RYH and CLC on Nov 30 & Dec 1
RYH's Instructions on Dec 1 and beyond; Shared by RYH on Nov 30, Dec 1, & Dec 2 via social media & email
This message is a bit lengthy, but worth the read. I’m writing to remind you all that tomorrow, Tuesday, December 1, 2020; LSC votes will be counted at each school that held elections between 7:30am - 5:00pm. In addition to CPS guidance; we wanted to share these reminders and considerations for tomorrow and the week ahead:
Candidates’ and their poll watchers are eligible to use their poll watcher credential forms to observe the entirety of the counting process at their schools that held elections. See 2020 LSC Election Guide, pages 29-30.
If you aren’t already aware, email your principal and election coordinator to get the exact times and details for counting votes and how you can observe the process.
Given COVID restrictions, ask if there are any special requirements needed to enter the school. Wear a mask and maintain safe social distance.
Per CPS guidance, current LSCs are required to meet no later than December 3rd to certify the results and break any ties. Plan to attend these virtual meetings by requesting the log-in code from your principal, designee or LSC Chairperson. See LSC Certification of Election Results here: English | Spanish.
As you observe the count process, take notes to document and report if you notice anything that doesn’t feel right. And if you notice a large number of ballots that are not counted; reach out to the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.