By Kathy Groob, Publisher ElectWomen Magazine – Whether you are running for city council or for Congress, each candidate must follow proper procedures for filing the important nominating petitions necessary to secure a place on the ballot. Filing procedures vary state-by-state and depending on the office that is sought. Improper paperwork can cause problems for candidates and can even lead to removal from the ballot.
Following are common mistakes made by first-time, and even seasoned candidates:
– Incomplete paperwork. Be sure to complete all the required items before submitting the documents. Incompletions can be overlooked and when discovered later can lead to removal as a candidate.
– Lack of treasurer/financial officer. Most candidates are required to specify a treasurer and bank prior to filing for office. Do not accept campaign contributions until all paperwork is properly filed.
– Invalid signatures. Each state requires some number of registered voter signatures to accompany a candidate filing and even can require that they live in your particular district or county. Your opponent has the right to challenge the validity of the signatures, so make sure they are actual residents of the required district and of the specified political party (if required).
– Attempt to file at the wrong location. Depending on the office you are seeking, filing documents can be filed by mail or in person, and for some state legislative office, filing documents must be recorded at the state capitol and also at a local designation, like a county clerk’s office.
– Failure to live in office district. Make sure you live in the state, district, county or city location for the office you are seeking. Paperwork can be accepted initially but rejected later, after the filing deadline, when it is too late to file for the proper district. County magistrate, commissioners and councilors’ district lines can be tricky – check with your county clerk or board of elections prior to completing paperwork.
– Waiting until the last minute. Filing deadlines are set in stone. Traffic jams or incomplete paperwork are not excuses for missing a deadline. Allow enough time for paperwork, notarization of witness signatures or to travel to the filing designation.
Even if errors in filing documents do not lead to removal from a ballot, they often make for good fodder for your opponent. Get the help you need to start your campaign off on the right footing by filing your paperwork properly. State and local boards of elections or secretaries of states often provide training sessions and handbooks for candidates that outline all the requirements for filing for office.