Demystifying running for office

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One aspect of deciding to run for City Council that took the most research was understanding just what the filing process looks like.  One might raise the question of whether the process is intentionally engineered to be a little mysterious and intimidating, if we didn't know that there are many parts of the government that are a little mysterious and intimidating.  🙂

So although I am myself very new to the process of running for office, I thought I'd share along the way what I've learned about how it works, in hopes that anyone who might want to join me or who might later follow in my footsteps can do so a little bit more efficiently.

Qualifying: to run for City Council, you must have lived in the City for over a year and be a registered voter there.  Your voter registration record must have a current mailing address on it.

Even though the election is for an office in the City government, the process is regulated by the State of Indiana and managed locally by the Clerk of Wayne County.  So, when you're ready to file and later when you need to turn in related paperwork, it's all done through the Clerk's office of Voter Registration (located on the 2nd floor of the County administration building).

The filing window is about a month long, and is standard across the whole state - see the Election Calendar Brochure made available by the state on its Information for Candidates website.  For this City Council election, the filing deadline is noon on Friday, February 18th, 2011.

You don't need any money, legal documents or even personal identification to file as a candidate for office.  When you enter the Voter Registration office, you can state that you're there to file as a candidate for the office you're filing for, and they'll provide you with the needed paperwork.  After signing in on their locally kept register of filings, the initial form you'll fill out is CAN-42: Declaration of Candidacy for Municipal Primary Nomination. This form will ask you for your name, address, which party you want to file with (Democrat or Republican), and whether or not you've run in other races before.

Next, they'll give you the opportunity to fill out a form describing the organization/committee that will hold your campaign finances, the CFA-1 form.  If you don't have all of that information ready at that time, you can take it with you and you have 10 days to return it to the Clerk's office.  Once you establish your campaign finance committee, you'll have to open a bank account and put at least $500 in it.

Once that's done, the person helping you should give you a packet of information about the election process, which will include some blank copies of the CFA-4 form. You'll use the CFA-4 form to file information about receipts and expenditures you have as a part of your campaign.  Once they've gone over the packet with you, you'll be asked to sign a form indicating that you received it, and they'll give you a copy of that for your own records.

And that's it!  Again, no money down, no lawyer needed, and the whole thing didn't take more than 15 minutes.

Because candidacy filings are a matter of public record, you should assume that your name and filing information will make its way into the hands of the local media and other interested parties soon after you file.  I recommend proactively sending a press release to the media so that you have a chance to help shape the way your candidacy is presented.

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