By Leonard Schwartz, LPM Political Director
Nearly all Michigan cities have nonpartisan elections this November. Here is how to get on the ballot:
- Contact your city clerk to learn (a) the deadline for submitting candidate paperwork and (b) the number of valid signatures you need. Also ask if you can get on the ballot by paying a filing fee instead of petitioning and whether the fee is refundable. Your city clerk will provide petition forms and an “Affidavit of Identity.”
- Unless you will pay a filing fee, gather signatures from city residents.
First ask friends to sign. Some might also help get signatures. Next petition door-to-door in your neighborhood. Petition only in daylight.
Saturday and Sunday afternoons are best. Because some persons aren’t registered to vote at the address they put on the petition, get at least 20% more signatures than you need.
Say something like: “I’m [name]. I want to be a candidate for [name of office]. Please sign this petition so that my name will appear on the ballot. I’m not asking you to vote for me. I’m merely asking your permission to appear on the ballot.” Most people will sign. Some persons want to discuss issues. Don’t waste your time. Say something like: “I’ll be happy to discuss issues after my name is on the ballot. But today I’m in a hurry.” If the person won’t sign, go to the next house.
- File your Affidavit of Identity and petitions (or filing fee) before the deadline.
- Form a candidate committee and file a “Statement of Organization” with the county clerk. Campaign finance rules are the same for partisan and nonpartisan candidates.
- Contact your LPM affiliate for support. Planning a successful campaign takes time.
An election is most winnable where there is a controversial issue. The issue need not have much practical importance. But it should stir voters’ emotions. When running against an incumbent, the issue can be that the incumbent is incompetent, venal, or corrupt.
Don’t be discouraged if you lose the first time. Martin Howrylak, David Eisenbacher, and Erin Stahl lost their first city council races. But they were elected on their second attempts.