The picture outside Chicago

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Outside Chicago, only three to four seats are filled in each school board election, and, typically, there are contested races for only one or two of those seats, according to Gerald Glaub, deputy executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards.

“It’s not unusual to see no challenges,” he says. “In a very limited number of circumstances, there are not enough candidates one or two each election.”

Contests develop most often when an incumbent steps down, says Glaub.

Suburban and downstate school board elections typically draw few voters, too. Once held by themselves in the spring, school board elections were moved about 20 years ago to November and combined with other non-partisan elections, such as those for park districts and community college districts. Glaub estimates the voter turnout at 10 percent to 15 percent of registered voters.

In an attempt to boost turnout and save money, these elections last year were combined with other municipal elections, such as those for city council. “There’s no reason to think the turnout was much different,” says Glaub. He says there’s no central repository of data on the number of candidates and voters in school board elections.