The immediate challenge facing any candidate running on a major party line in the special election for US Senate is steep: 10,000 signatures must be submitted to 351 city and town clerks across the Commonwealth by the close of business on February 27. On March 6 those papers must be submitted to the Secretary of Commonwealth’s office for final certification.
Ballot drives are a herculean task with several moving parts that require extensive discipline and organization. Campaigns have to make sure their nomination papers are in near mint condition, signatures line up with the correct town and ward, deal with a local elections officials, and most importantly they have to collect enough valid signatures to sustain any challenge.
There is little doubt that some prospective candidates, particularly on the Republican side now that Scott Brown is out, included this hurdle in their decision to opt out of running in the 2013. Losing any election is embarrassing but committing to run for office and then failing to make the ballot is humiliating. It last happened locally in 2008 when Jim Ogonowski came up short in his efforts to make the ballot to challenge then Senator John Kerry.
When making the ballot candidates have really just two options when it comes to qualifying for the ballot. One option is paying an outside firm to collection petitions to get on a ballot, an effort that sometimes costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. This process is usually faster and frees up staffers to focus on other efforts but it drains campaign coffers of valuable cash.
The other option is organizing volunteers to get on the ballot. This method is cheap and can yield valuable data to campaigns that know how to use it efficiently. Volunteer led signature gathering gives organizers an opportunity to plug volunteers into a campaign at a very early stage, something that can prove valuable on Election Day when they need every warm body they can find to turnout voters.
Third party candidates and independents have a little more time to get their act together and on the ballot with an April 3 deadline.
The clock is ticking.
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