Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Petitioning Candidate - Basics (Why, How, When, etc.)

If you're wondering what a 'Petitioning Candidate' is, you're in good company. It's been the top question I've fielded so far, so read on and I'll try to fill in some helpful details. If you're really curious and want the full legal discussion about candidates running in a special election (petitioning or otherwise), there is a great detailed document on the website for the Secretary of the State.

I've been humbled by the great press and overwhelming show of support in less than 24 hours since announcing my candidacy for Connecticut State Senate, 32nd Senatorial District. Two wonderful newspaper articles have already appeared and the calls to me and my family have been amazing. Glad to know that people are really interested, evening though it's not a general election cycle.

Petitioning Candidate
Basically and simply put, there are a few ways to run as a candidate for office. One can align with a particular political party and seek the endorsement of that party, either a 'Major Party Candidate' or a 'Minor Party Candidate.' In my case, I'm an unaffiliated voter and have been so my entire adult life. My understanding is that the 'Unaffiliated' category is the largest of all voter classifications in Connecticut, but I've not been able to find exact statistics for this post. If I do find them later, I'll update this post to reflect whatever the data shows, as long as it's published from a reliable source.

If an individual doesn't get the endorsement of their political party, they can still run, but they would either have to align with a different party or would have to follow the route that I've chosen.

As a Petitioning Candidate, I need to demonstrate that there is sufficient support in my district (in my case, Senatorial District 32) to have my name placed on the ballot. The mechanism to do so is for me to collect signatures on forms provided by the Office of the Secretary of the State. Our state statutes define how many signatures need to be collect. In my case, the number is equal to 1% of the total votes cast in the most recent General Election for the office I'm seeking — State Senate, 32nd District.

To be eligible to sign petitions supporting my candidacy, one needs to meet the following criteria:
  • Live in the district (See town names at top of page or view page for 32nd District)
  • Be at least 18 years of age and registered to vote in your town

If you are unsure which district your home address is in, use this link to Find Your Legislator in Connecticut. This is especially important for residents of Middlebury and Seymour which are split across two senatorial districts. You can also click those town name links to verify with the clerk that you are still registered to vote. The reason some towns are split is to ensure equal representation at the state level. Each of our 36 Senators represents just shy of 100,000 people. That's not an arbitrary number, but rather a calculation based on census figures. Since Connecticut has nearly 3.6 million residents, it calculates to approximately 100,000 people per Senator . . . so they've got to draw the lines somewhere.

Have you ever heard the phrase - Time is of the essence? Well, in layman's terms, it means GOTTA GET MOVING. My deadline to submit completed petitions to each of the ten town clerks is no later than 4:00 p.m. Monday, January 23, 2017.

I've loved all the support offered from all over the world (yes, in just 24 hours, comments from all over the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand . . . all fun to read, but no, you can't sign the petition. Well - you could, but the signature wouldn't count. Our local town clerks have enough other work to do, so no, let's not make them cross you off my list.). I've even had an offer to help me campaign from a friend living in the district, but she's Swiss . . . and while we all love the Swiss, she can't help me collect signatures because she doesn't qualify under the rules as a 'Circulator' and rules are rules. Even my own parents, who live just minutes away in the City of Waterbury cannot sign to support my candidacy, because they live in a different senatorial district.

An article in one regional edition of the Waterbury Republican-American newspaper, 18 Jan 2017.

Lastly, if any Petitioning Candidate fails to collect the required signatures within the prescribed time limits, their name will not appear on the ballot. They can always continue to run as a 'Write In Candidate,' but that is a significant challenge, even for a person with a name as simple as Dan Lynch.

UPDATE: I'm pleased to announce that on Thursday, January 26, 2017, I received written confirmation from the Office of the Secretary of the State giving notice that my efforts to petition onto the ballot were successful. To quote the letter, "Dear Mr. Lynch: Congratulations. The nominating petition filed with this office on behalf of the following candidate for the office listed below, as a Petitioning Candidate, has been examined as required by law and is hereby approved." The letter lists my name, Daniel M. Lynch, as candidate for State Senate, District 32.

In the days and weeks ahead, I will share more details about what I learned during the petitioning process, as well as thoughts and observations from the campaign trail.