The races to fill three seats on Portland Public School’s nine-person Board of Education have drawn 12 candidates.

Seven of the candidates who have filed petitions to appear on the June 14 ballot are running for the district’s two open at-large seats. The other five are vying for the District 5 vacancy. The city clerk had yet to formally approve three candidates who filed petitions shortly before the deadline Monday.

Portland school board elections usually take place in November. But after the departure of three school board members last fall, the seats were added to the city’s regularly scheduled June election.

Two former at-large board members, Anna Trevorrow and Roberto Rodriguez, left the school board after winning City Council seats in November. Former District 5 school board member, Jeff Irish, resigned in October.

Candidates elected in June will finish the terms of those who departed rather than serving full three-year terms. The candidates elected to the two at-large seats will serve until November 2022 and the District 5 winner will serve until November 2023.

As of Monday afternoon, Sarah Lentz, Richard Ward, Benjamin Grant, Stephanie Albert and Amber Schertz had qualified to run for the at-large seats. Stacey Hang and Kimberly Mancini had turned in their papers but had not yet been certified. At-large candidates must get at least 300 signatures from community members in support of their candidacy to qualify.


For the District 5 seat, Barbara Goglin, Sarah Brydon, Joshua Haefele and Lou A. Viola had been cleared to run. Elizabeth Capone-Newton was waiting to be approved. Those competing for District 5, representing North Deering, Deering Center and Riverton, must get at least 75 signatures in support of their candidacy.

Portland chooses its school board members through ranked-choice voting. The system requires candidates who receive more than 50 percent of the votes to be declared the winner. Voters rank candidates by preference so that instant runoffs can he held if no candidate tops 50 percent in the initial count.

In races where candidates are vying for a single position and no one gets an outright majority in the first round, the candidate that is in last place is knocked off the ballot. His or her ballots are then redistributed based on the second choices. The process continues until someone wins more than 50 percent of the vote.

But because there are two open at-large seats, the candidates for those seats will be chosen through a different ranked-choice voting process called multiple pass instant runoff voting. There will effectively be two separate runoff elections, a process that some say can limit the ability of minority voting blocs to gain representation.

Under Portland’s rules, when there are multiple open seats voters cast their ballots ranking each candidate in order of preference and the same runoff process is used to determine the first winner. However, after the first seat is filled, the winning candidate also gets removed from the ballots and that person’s votes are then redistributed.

The problem with using instant runoff when there are multiple seats open is that if you have a majority who put a bloc first, then that bloc will be elected and there won’t be proportional representation, said Christoph Borgers, a Tufts University mathematics professor who has studied and written about electoral systems.

This happened in the June 2021 Portland Charter Commission election, when four candidates – including one who only got 4 percent of the vote in the initial runoff – banded together, ran as a team and all won seats on the commission.

The city is considering changing the voting system in cases where candidates are competing for multiple seats to proportional ranked-choice voting. Rather than requiring one candidate to win more than 50 percent of the vote, proportional ranked-choice allows multiple candidates to win smaller shares of the total based on the number of available seats and the number of candidates.

The charter commission has conceptually approved moving to a different form of ranked-choice voting but has not approved formal language. If formal language is approved, the question of whether to change the ranked-choice process for multiseat races will go to the voters in November.

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