Charter commissioner requirements explained

Who can run for charter commissioner? And what are the requirements to get on the fall ballot, in the event voters approve a referendum calling for a study of the city’s form of government?

Those questions were reviewed this past week with Forrest K. Lehman, county director of Voter Services, after it was announced that candidates may start to circulate nomination papers on Aug. 23.

Nomination papers are different than petitions that are circulated to get candidates on the ballot, he said.

These papers and filing instructions will be made available at Voter Services starting at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 21.

Any registered voter living in the city may circulate nomination papers and attempt to get on the commission, which will have seven members.

The position is non-partisan, meaning political affiliation does not matter so long as the candidate is registered to vote. If a person is a city taxpayer but not registered to vote, that person may not seek the position, according to state Election Code.

Charter commission candidates may already hold public office, including City Council, Lehman said.

As candidates circulate papers, they will need to obtain 63 signatures that hold up after being reviewed.

That number is a calculation based on the number of votes cast in the city during the last gubernatorial election, which was in 2014.

Blocks of up to seven candidates may circulate nomination papers with all names on them, and Lehman anticipates there may be some who do run together.

People who are asked to sign such papers need to be aware of one catch.

“Registered voters can sign for no more than seven candidates,” Lehman said.

So, may a voter who signed a paper for a block of seven sign another nomination paper that, essentially, would be for an eighth candidate?

“Not in this case,” Lehman said.

“My advice is, if a voter sees a candidate that he or she does not want, the voter would be best not to sign the document,” he said.

Lehman said he advises candidates to get more than the legal minimum of voter signatures to “insulate” themselves against a potential challenge.

“If a candidate, as in this case, is to get 63 registered voter signatures, I would advise them to try to get 100,” Lehman said. “If the limit is 100, I would seek 200.”

The purpose of the suggestion of bolstering the number of signatures is to ensure there is a fair election and to prevent any procedural challenges and delays.

“We want to see everyone who wants to be on the ballot get on the ballot,” he said.

The deadline to file nomination papers is 5 p.m. Sept. 22.