Advice For Political Newcomers As Election Season Begins

February 17, 2019
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Advice For Political Newcomers As Election Season Begins

Tuesday marks the start of this year’s election season — the day candidates may start to collect signatures on nominating petitions for the May 21 primary.

Several political newcomers, making their first bid for elective office, are expected to run for positions in municipal or county government. Some have already announced their candidacy.

Veteran candidates and the county elections director last week gave this advice to first-time campaigners: Be thorough, be precise, check everything twice and if needed ask for help. The three-week window to collect signatures can go by quickly, they said.

“I think when you are a first-time candidate it’s important to get the information and it can be very helpful to talk to someone you are comfortable with,” said Tim McGinley, Luzerne County councilman, who plans to seek a third term this year. “The best thing to do if they have questions is to ask. Don’t wait until a day or two before petitions are due.”

McGinley advised candidates to pay close attention to the names and places of residence listed on their nominating petitions.

The signature needs to be legible, the printed name should match what is listed on a voter registration card and place of residence needs to list the municipality rather than the mailing address, which in some cases can be different, he said.

For instance, “Mountain Top” is not acceptable as a listed place of residence on a nominating petition, McGinley said.

Find a list of key election dates here.

Marisa Crispell, director of elections for Luzerne County, said candidates should try to collect the needed number of signatures in advance of the March 12 deadline, in case problems arise.

“Attention to detail is very important,” Crispell said.

Candidates must be sure to fill out the preamble at the top of the petition, which lists information about the candidate and the office he or she is seeking, before circulating the petition to collect signatures, she said.

It is important to make sure everyone who signs a nominating petition is a registered voter, of the proper political party and a resident of the relevant jurisdiction, Crispell said.

Also, candidates must wait till Tuesday to start to collect signatures, since any signatures dated before Feb. 19 will be disqualified, she said.

Jane Walsh Waitkus, a Luzerne County councilwoman who is running for the third time this year, said one thing she learned from her first campaign is to carry her nominating petition everywhere, including community, school and church events.

“You never know when you are going to meet people who are willing to sign your petition,” she said. “People like to be asked.”

That advice is especially important for county council candidates, who must collect 250 valid signatures to get on the ballot. Candidates for municipal office need to collect 10 valid signatures, while those running for magisterial district judge need 100 valid signatures, according to Crispell.

Candidates may pick up election packets that include nominating petitions at the county bureau of elections, 20 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 207, Wilkes-Barre.

The elections bureau has been busy handing out packets since they became available Feb. 11, to the point elections workers had to print out additional copies, Crispell said.

She encouraged candidates with questions to visit the elections bureau in person or contact the bureau via email at elections@luzernecounty.org.

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