If you’re a registered member of a political party, there’s a chance that in the coming days someone holding up clipboard will walk up to your door, pull you aside at a farmers market or catch you at the shops, and ask for your John Hancock.
It’s the annual funfest of designating petitions. Collecting signatures is the way many candidates for office will end up on the ballot, and in local races (like the ones being held this year) it’s a battle fought door-to-door in our communities. And it just started.
The process is not exactly intuitive. So what is petitioning all about? Well, it’s about deciding who ends up on the ballot. Here’s how it works.
Local political parties have already made their nominations through caucusing in recent weeks. But what remains is the petitioning process, when those who were not nominated can get onto the ballot.
Hopefuls may collect signatures from voters registered in their party – this year, they have from June 4 to July 11. If successful, the candidate will appear with any other candidates for that line in a September primary. Voters take part in their own party’s primary, and the candidates run in November on the line or lines they won.
Candidates must collect signatures of 5 percent of the active, registered voters in a party, or either 500, 1,000 or 2,000 signatures, depending on the office (whichever of the two categories is smaller).
Collecting signatures can be a tricky business. Suffice it to say every piece of information on a form must be exactly correct – if a single voter’s address is written as “Delmar” when the Board of Elections records has it as “Bethlehem,” the signature and all other signatures on the petition sheet can be tossed out.
Candidates will likely “walk” their petitions themselves, but many also employ volunteers to carry it on their behalf. Some candidates will pool their efforts with other campaigns and ask voters to sign on to several candidates in one go.