Running For Office: Filing Requirements and Deadlines
By Jesse Lawder
In order to show up on the ballot, you’ll have to file to run. Most candidates will have some sort of a public announcement indicating their intention to run. Consider this filing the private announcement.
Depending on the office you intend to run for, you may need to file paperwork with a secretary of state, a party committee, a clerk of the court or some other entities. Since these requirements will vary widely from state to state, and even within different counties or cities, this guide seeks to help you cover your bases by helping you find out what the specific requirements are where you plan to run.
Deadlines and Requirements
Every jurisdiction will have a filing deadline, and in some cases, multiple deadlines. Know these deadlines. Meet these deadlines. Failure to meet them may cost your campaign money, create unnecessary controversy or, at worst, knock you right out of the race.
The paperwork requirements will vary, and may include things like qualifying papers, nomination petitions, finance reports, affidavits or other disclosures.
Many states also require “economic interest” or other disclosure forms to identify any conflicts of interest you may have. Keep in mind that some disclosure requirements may also include spouses, dependent children or other family members.
In addition to knowing your deadlines, filing for candidacy may also affect your legal restraints, particularly when it comes to fundraising. Get to know your local election law where it concerns this early phase to make sure you’re complying with all applicable legal requirements.
Ideally, you should have a lawyer working with you to make sure all relevant paperwork is in order. Some jurisdictions may have nebulous guidance for filing that a lawyer can help you interpret. Don’t let a process issue turn into a political one.
So, where do I go to find specifics?
Below are links to federal and state web pages that can help you find specific requirements and deadlines for filing. For county, municipal or other races, please consult the relevant jurisdictional websites to find this information. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to call or show up at the office in your area that handles elections. They’re not just around to count votes; it’s their job to help you run.
Most election requirements are handled at the state level. However, if you are running for federal office, such as the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives, you will be covered under federal election law. The Federal Election Commission, which enforces the Federal Election Campaign Act, a statute covering the financing of federal elections, will be your primary guide for federal requirements. Keep in mind, that regardless of the office you are seeking, state requirements will apply even if you are running for federal office.
Each state has a Secretary of State or equivalent office which serves as the chief election officer in that state. These office holders make up the National Association of Secretaries of State, which can be a good resource for finding out what’s happening in different areas where election law is concerned. Click on a state below to find out more information about candidate filing requirements where you want to run. Keep in mind these web pages are updated periodically with information about the next election, so if the information you find is only germane to 2016, check back periodically for updated info.
NOTE: If you are running for a partisan office, be sure to check with your state party organization for information on the nominating process.
For more information on important campaign deadlines, visit our key dates and deadlines resource: https://medium.com/nextdems/running-for-office-key-dates-for-candidates-43a423f2cf5#.5kujw8wd4
For more information on the team you’ll have to build and their roles in your organization, visit our guide on how to assemble your campaign team: https://medium.com/p/6acde78d5577