You’ve decided to run for office. Congratulations! But now what do you?
One of the first steps you should take is to research the rules, regulations, and laws that govern elections in your jurisdiction. The best place to start is with the Board of Elections or City Clerk, County Clerk, or State (depending on what level of government you are running for). Take a look at their website or give them a call. They likely have a resource packet for candidates.
Some questions you should ask:
- When is the filing deadline?
- What paperwork do I need to complete to officially file as a candidate?
- Do I need to collect signatures of registered voters to get on the ballot?
- What campaign roles do I need to fill before filing? (Typically, you’ll need to have a treasurer, but you may also need a campaign manager/committee chairperson.)
- Are there any restrictions on who can serve as my treasurer or campaign chair?
- Is there a filing fee? If ‘yes,’ does it need to be paid from your campaign account? (That means you’ll need to open a campaign bank account before you file.)
- Is public financing an option?
- How much money can I spend before I need to register a campaign finance committee?
- What is the individual donor limit? Is that per year or per election cycle?
- When are the campaign finance reporting deadlines?
- What legal disclaimers do I need to include on my campaign materials? For instance, “Authorized by Jessica Brown, Treasurer.”
- What information do I need to track about my donors? (Typical requirements include name, address, employer, occupation, contribution amount, contribution date.)
- Who can I contact with questions about campaign finance rules?
- Who else has filed their candidacy?
- Can they provide a copy of the voter file? (There are other options to the voter registry maintained by your Board of Elections, including access through your county or state Democratic Party, a free file from NationBuilder, or data from a commercial vendor. For non-partisan municipal offices, the Board of Elections data is likely your best bet.)