Thursday, July 24, 2014

Is it time for uniformity in ballot statement rules?

Did you know that the rules for how you prepare your ballot statement is different all over the state? In California at least. The Election Code only prescribes that:

       ELE §13307. (a) (1) Each candidate for nonpartisan elective office in any local agency, 
       including any city, county, city and county, or district, may prepare a candidate’s statement 
       on an appropriate form provided by the elections official. The statement may include the 
       name, age, and occupation of the candidate and a brief description, of no more than 200 
       words, of the candidate’s education and qualifications expressed by the candidate himself 
       or herself. However, the governing body of the local agency may authorize an increase 
       in the limitations on words for the statement from 200 to 400 words. The statement shall 
       not include the party affiliation of the candidate, nor membership or activity in partisan 
       political organizations. 

This means different counties apply different standards above and beyond this, which sometimes come into conflict with the law. For instance, in Santa Clara you must indent paragraphs but not have spaces between them. You also cannot have more than 22 lines. Other counties format the statements themselves and don't worry about the lines. In Marin County, you may not indent and you must have no more than 4 paragraphs. If you have more, they simply run a few together.

Most Counties prohibit italics, all CAPS, highlighting and bullet points.  But even within counties, different standards prevail depending on the election and the official administering it, from what I gathered looking over some recent published statements.

This can be confusing to a novice, or even experienced, candidate, who try to submit a carefully worded statement only to find he has run afoul of some arcane rule or another.

I think it might be time for some uniform rules for all Counties to follow. Until then, know the rules in your County well ahead of time, then craft your statement accordingly.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tip for New Candidates - Verify those signatures!

To run for office, at least in California, you need to collect signatures to put your name on the ballot. It sounds like a simple thing; you get a number (usually) 20 of registered voters in your District, who sign your papers, "nominating" you for the office. The trick is making sure the person is a registered voters, votes at the address they list on the form and goes by that name.

Most Registrar of Voters suggest that you get at least half again as many signatures as required, in case some of them turn out to be "bad."

Here's a case in point: A friend of mine was running for local office and needed 20 signatures. Each and every person she went to was known personally to her. She has no doubt the signatures she handed in were all good. Guess what; they weren't. Of her 20, just one was "bad" because a married woman signed with her husband's name, not her own, maiden, name she was registered under. That one disqualified her from the ballot.

My friend was too late to get more signatures and was not able to run for election that year.