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How Do Candidates Get Onto the Ballot?

Like most of us, you have probably wondered how the candidates on your ballot got there. Whether running for a township, school board, county, state, or federal level office, be assured that they underwent a challenging process requiring commitment by state and federal laws on how they appear on the election ballot. 



Most candidates, especially for more local races, are people from our communities - neighbors, friends, business people, etc., many who step up at a time when an important issue is at play, have a solution to a problem or idea - Dependent on the level of the office sought the potential candidate presents themselves to their respective political committees to declare their candidacy. 

 

The candidate then seeks endorsement from their respective Party through the committee people at the local, state, and, for President, national committee level. While endorsement is NOT required to get onto the ballot, candidate endorsements come with support from the Party and provide a "stamp of approval" from the committee, indicating they "passed the test" on items deemed necessary to their party's voters.


Essentially, political committees play a significant role in the election process. Members of committees within your precinct — the area where you vote — cast votes to endorse local candidates. These candidates may include individuals running for positions within your township, school board, county, and some state-level candidates such as those running for the PA State House, Senate, and Judges. Once elected, these candidates have the power to create, modify, and enforce laws and ordinances, as well as administer justice.


To win an election, a candidate must first win the Primary, which is the election that decides who will represent each party in the General Election. Winning a contested Primary requires the support of those who make endorsements, which are the precinct committee members. These members represent you as a registered voter, as well as the interests and policy preferences of your respective party.

 

Here are the steps for getting onto the Primary Election ballot:

 

Step 1: Initial introduction. Candidate approaches the committee chairperson, provides a letter of intent to run, and presents themself to the Committee as a candidate seeking endorsement: why they are running, their background, experience, policies supported, and campaign plans. 

 

Step 2: Straw poll. Candidate again presents themself to committee people in their region at the regional "straw polls" to provide the opportunity to hear more from the candidates, to caucus (discuss and debate the pros and cons of candidates), and cast a non-binding vote on their candidate preference.: Endorsement

 

Step 4: Petitions. Candidates then collect the required number of signatures from the electors of their Party in their respective districts, which must be filed with the state and then deemed valid.

 

The candidate then seeks endorsement from their respective Party through the committee people at the local, state, and, for President, national committee level. While endorsement is NOT required to get onto the ballot, candidate endorsements come with support from the Party and provide a "stamp of approval" from the committee, indicating they "passed the test" on items deemed necessary to their Party's voters.

 

As you may tell through reviewing the process, your committee person plays an essential role in candidate vetting and endorsement weather that be local, state or national. The precinct committee person is a powerful office because committee people determine who gets onto the ballot, who is elected to office, and who changes our laws. Yet few voters know who they are!

 

Rule of thumb: Know your committee people! They are there to receive your feedback and serve as a resource and a liaison regarding the Party, candidates, and elected officials.

 

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