Running for Elected Office
Running for Countywide or Municipal Office
Individuals who decide to run for office need to inform themselves on a variety of election topics before starting their campaigns. For example, they should be knowledgeable about the responsibilities and duties of the office they seek, the qualifications necessary to hold that office, and the legal requirements regarding campaign finance. The first step should be contacting the governing authority of the office being sought and discussing these issues.
Once it is determined that you would like to run for office, the next step is to determine how you are going to proceed. There are three methods by which a candidate may gain access to the November ballot:
- Gaining access to a political party's primary ballot through nomination petitions and winning that party's nomination.(Democrat and Republican)
- Gaining direct access to the November ballot by means of nomination papers, which are filed by minor political parties and political bodies. (Independents)
- Conducting a write-in campaign and winning the party's nomination.
Getting on the Ballot
All candidates who wish to appear on the Democratic or Republican ballot in the Primary Election must file what are known as "Nomination Petitions" along with a "Statement of Financial Interests" with the County Board of Elections prior to the established deadline for the Election Year in which the office appears on the ballot. These forms, along with an instruction packet, are available at the Election Board office in early February.
Nomination Petitions are documents signed by registered voters, who are enrolled members of the party of which you are seeking a nomination, petitioning the county board of elections to print your name on the primary ballot as a candidate for the office you are seeking. In addition to being actively registered members of the party, the signers must reside in the electoral district of the office sought. View a list of the number of signatures required to run for office as well as applicable filing fees (if any).
Statement of Financial Interests
The Statement of Financial Interests is a form that must be filed along with the petition, which requires the filer to set forth information regarding the filer's sources of income. A copy of the completed Statement of Financial Interests must also be filed with the governing authority of the office you are seeking by the petition filing deadline. For more information regarding the Statement of Financial Interests, you can log onto the State Ethics Commission's website, or you can call the State Ethics Commission toll free at 800-932-0936. Candidates who file nomination petitions and successfully win the party's nomination in the Primary Election will automatically have their name appear on the November Ballot for the office they are seeking.
An individual may also decide to run as an independent, bypassing the Primary Election and competing directly in November for the office they are seeking. A candidate may not run as an independent if they are a registered member of a political party. To qualify, a candidate must withdraw from their registered political party at least 30 days prior to the Primary Election and remain unaffiliated through the November Election. Additionally, the candidate may not participate in the Primary Election in any way, including filing nomination petitions or running a write-in campaign. Withdrawal or rejection of your nomination petition does not excuse you from this rule.
Candidates filing nomination papers must obtain signatures from qualified registered electors of the district in an amount equal to at least 2% of the largest entire vote cast for an elected candidate at the last election within the district. The number of signatures required may not be less than the number of signatures required for party candidates for the same office. Candidates seeking access to the November ballot through Nomination Papers must contact the County Board of Elections to calculate the required number of signatures needed for the office they are seeking.
The final possibility is for an individual to conduct a "write-in" campaign in the primary or November election, or both. In this option, the candidate's name does not appear printed on the official ballot, but voters physically type the candidate's name into the voting machine when casting their vote for that office. If a write-in candidate successfully wins the office in the Primary Election, they will have to complete and return acceptance forms prior to the established deadline in order for their name to appear on the November ballot. If the write-in winner fails to return this paperwork acknowledging their nomination, the candidate's name will not appear on the November ballot. Note: Write-In Campaigns are not exempt from filing Campaign Finance reports / forms.
Challenges to Nomination Petitions & Nomination Papers
Typically, an individual can challenge the validity of a nomination petition or nomination paper within seven days of the filing deadline for nomination petitions or nomination papers. Most challenges focus on the validity of individual signatures on a nomination petition or nomination paper. Typically, signatures are challenged on the basis that the signer was not qualified to sign the candidate's nomination petition or nomination paper, or the information provided by the signer is illegible. On some occasions, the validity of a signature is challenged on the basis that the signer's handwriting or signature does not match that contained in the signer's registration record. Most other challenges are based on the accuracy of the information provided by the candidate on the Candidate's Affidavit or Statement of Financial Interests.
Determining Ballot Position
- General Election: Since the current Governor of Pennsylvania is a registered Democrat, all Democratic party candidates will appear first. If the office requires a vote for more than one candidate, names will be listed according to the number of votes received in the Primary, with the highest vote-getter listed first.
- Primary Election: If the number of candidates appearing on the ballot is greater than the number of votes that may be cast for that office, a drawing for ballot position will be held to determine the order in which the names will appear. If, however, there is no contest, candidates' names appear in alphabetical order.
Campaign Finance Reporting
- Campaign finance reports/statements must be filed by all candidates for public office, including those running write-in campaigns, setting forth information regarding contributions received and expenditures made for the purpose of influencing the outcome of an election.
- Candidates who do not intend to have financial activity related to their seeking office should fill out the "Waiver of Expense Account Reporting Affidavit" found on the back of their Nominating Petitions. This is the only opportunity to waive your filing obligations.
- A candidate may also authorize a committee to accept contributions and make expenditures on the candidate's behalf. The committee must have a chairperson and a treasurer, who may not be the same person. Each candidate and each authorized political committee must file reports of receipts and expenditures, if the amount received or expended or liabilities incurred exceeds $250. Otherwise, the candidate or the treasurer of the authorized political committee may file the statement in lieu of the reports.
- Candidates are required to file a campaign finance report/statement that is separate from the report/statement filed by their authorized political committee.
For more information on this topic, please visit the Campaign Finance Page.