MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Opponents of Central School Board chairwoman Susan Meikle Stoops are closing in on the number of signatures needed to force a recall election.
Citizens for 13J Excellent submitted 1,025 signatures to the Polk County Clerk on Wednesday, March 23.
As of press time, 884 of those were deemed valid. The group needs 1,001 signatures from registered voters in Central School District to trigger a special election for residents to determine whether to remove Stoops from office.
The deadline to reach that milestone isn't until the end of May. Citizens for 13J Excellence began collecting signatures in Monmouth and Independence in late February.
"We were surprised," said John Boyack, president of the political action committee, of gathering that many names in just more than a month. "I think that shows the concern in the community is high enough and it shows that our volunteers are motivated."
County Clerk Val Unger said invalid signatures are often the result of either unregistered voters or those who have moved and not updated their voting information.
"Sometimes it's up to 30 percent of signatures we reject," Unger said, "so this was a good rate."
Citizens for 13J planned to canvass for the remaining signatures this week, according to the organization's website.
Unger said if the group wants the election to coincide with the May primary, she must be able to verify 1,001 signatures by April 4.
Volunteers have been stationed along Monmouth Street across from Central High School and in the downtown areas of Monmouth and Independence in recent weeks. They've also canvassed door to door.
Most residents contacted who signed the petition had some knowledge of the complaints surrounding the district school board, said Jill Love, Citizens for 13J treasurer.
"Many who didn't sign asked for more information," she said.
Love said the group has raised $1,934 in cash and in-kind donations to finance the campaign and has spent $243.
Organizing a recall has been "daunting," Boyack said, but not impossible. He noted that when Stoops ran unopposed for office in 2009, she received 1,370 votes.
"We have almost that many signed to recall her," he said.
Timeline for the recall election process:
* The county clerk must receive 1,001 signatures in order for a recall election to move forward. After -- or if -- the clerk receives and verifies that total, Stoops will have five days from that point to step down or contest.
* A recall election would be held no later than 35 days after that period.