What’s the deal with signature papers?

As Mike posted earlier today, signature papers for the Worcester 2011 election became available yesterday at the Election Commission. Should you be thinking of taking us up on running for office, that would be the second floor of City Hall.

What’s up with signature papers, anyway?

By signing a candidate’s papers you are petitioning the city to add that person’s name to the ballot in the fall election.  What you are signing (which is the second part of the below photo, not the first) says:

Whereas (candidate’s name) is a candidate for nomination for the office of (whatever the office is) for the term of two years, we, the undersigned, voters of the City of Worcester, duly qualified to vote for a candidate for said office, do hereby request the name of said (candidate’s name) as a candidate for nomination for said office be printed on the official ballot to be used at the preliminary election to be held on Tuesday, September 20th, 2011. We further state that we believe him/her to be of good moral character and qualified to perform the duties of the office.

Yes, September 20th! That’s the scheduled primary, should we have one. If there aren’t enough candidates for one, all candidates are on the November 8 ballot instead.

Should you be approached to sign someone’s papers, they’ll ask if you’re registered to vote in the City of Worcester. If you are, then you can sign any at-large council candidate’s papers and any school committee candidate’s papers. They may more specifically ask if you are registered to vote in a particular district. Only voters within a district may petition for a district council candidate.

To sign, you print then sign (lots of people get this backward) your name, fill out your address as of last January, write in your ward and precinct, write in your current address (if it’s changed), ward, and precinct. A few tips:

  • it’s okay if you don’t know your ward and precinct. Sure sign you’re dealing with a Worcester political geek: they know their ward and precinct. Leave it blank if you don’t know (don’t guess).
  • Write your name as you’re registered to vote. If you do most business under a married name, but vote under a maiden name, or use an initial, or something else, write down what’s in the voter register.
  • You can write “same” if your address hasn’t changed.
  • Only sign papers that have a name filled out in that above paragraph. If the first part (with the notarized signature) isn’t filled out, that’s less important (plenty of candidates do that last), but only sign papers when you know who you’re signing for!

A candidate for at-large council or school committee must gather 300 certified signatures of Worcester voters to make the ballot; a district candidate must gather 100 certified signatures of that district’s voters to make the ballot. “Certified” signatures mean that they’ve been checked out by the Election Commission; they’ve been able to decipher what is written, and the person is registered to vote (and to vote where they’ve said).

Candidates have until July 26 at 5 pm to gather signatures.

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