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Mar/Apr 2001 issue (#50)


'60s Dream Lives On

Party Troopers

Suit Filed Against George W. Bush

"Friends in High Places"

Baby Bush Bombs Baghdad

Don't Put the Utilities Back in Charge

Biblically-Grounded Movements For Progressive Change In Washington

How to Run for City Council

Mad Cow: Coming to the U.S.?

Monoculture and Mad Cows

Itching to Ride Light Rail

Is Work Killing You?

Escaping the Globalized Gym

Seattle's Clattering Poets

A Puppetista Manifesto

Living Outside Empire

Don't Put the Utilities Back in Charge

ACORN's Falling

Social Transformation Explained? Technogod

Spokane Free-speech Battle


Reader Mail


Urban Work

Media Beat

Nature Doc

Rad Videos

Do Something!

Reel Underground

How to Run for City Council

by Joel Hanson

In the last issue of the Washington Free Press, I briefly outlined one method by which the Green Party and other third parties could increase their participation in state and local elections nationwide—by creating a website dedicated to providing all of the information necessary to run for public office. While making such information more accessible won’t by itself increase candidate participation or successful third party campaigns, it will give potential candidates and the parties that support them a better opportunity to strategize their campaigns according to the minutia of requirements and deadlines implemented by local bureaucracies like the King County Records and Elections Division, where I obtained most of the information for this article.

The League of Women Voters of Seattle has done an admirable job producing and distributing approximately 140,000 copies of Try (They Represent You) 2000, a city directory of elected officials that provides information of how to reach and address state and local representatives. Among its many services, the website www.pan.ci.seattle.wa.us keeps Seattle’s citizens aware of important political topics, public hearings, and provides contact information for the city’s representatives. The website www.metrokc.gov/elections provides election results and voter registration information. However, none of these resources informs potential candidates about the various requirements for actually running for public office.

As the 2001 election approaches, candidates must write or call the King County Records and Election Division (206-296-1565) to obtain elective office information, a time-consuming step that could be eliminated if this information were made available online. Personally, I lack the technical knowledge to write the code for this proposed website, but I will point to a site that could be used as the blueprint for its design and outline some of the key information it should contain, with the hope that an individual or an organization with the appropriate time and resources could implement it.

Paging through various employment websites, I was impressed by the simple, clearly laid out and easy-to-use site www.flipdog.com. Job seekers looking for employment in a specific city and state can click on a map of the United States and select from a drop-down list of cities to find the available jobs in their area. My proposed site would function in a similar manner. For instance, if I wanted to run for a seat on the Seattle city council, I would click on Washington State, select King County, the city of Seattle, and the office of city council. I would then receive a series of choices under subject headings like: available seats, candidate qualifications, how to obtain the necessary forms, where to file the forms, getting a candidate on the ballot, filing deadlines, etc., each step presented in the order it needs to be completed for eligible candidacy. Continuing with my Seattle City Council example, the four-step process required to run for that particular office is detailed below.

1) Qualify for candidacy. I must be a registered voter who has lived at least one year in the city in which I’m seeking election.

2) Become a candidate. I can become a candidate in any of the four following ways: publicly announcing my candidacy, beginning to collect and spend money for a campaign, contracting for campaign goods and services, filing for office during the filing period July 23-27, 2001.

3) File my candidacy with the Public Disclosure Commission. I am required to complete two forms, a Personal Financial Affairs Statement (PDC Form F-1) and the Registration: Candidate/Candidate Committee Form (Form C-1), and send the originals to the PDC (located via P.O. Box 40908, Olympia, WA 98504-0908) and copies to the Division of Records and Elections (room 553, King County Administration Building, 500 4th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104).

4) Get my name on the ballot. I must file a Declaration of Candidacy Form at the King County Administration Building during the five-day filing period (listed above). I am also required to pay a filing fee, approximately 1 percent of the annual salary of the office I am seeking. If I can’t afford the filing fee, I am required to submit a Supplemental Nominating Petition containing one “valid” signature for each dollar of the filing fee.

While this procedure seems simple enough, compiling this information city by city, county by county, state by state would be enormous task. Nevertheless, the Greens or another interested third party could realistically complete it by the candidate filing period—which begins July 23, 2001—if they limited their efforts exclusively to Washington State. Other states with established Green Party organizations—like Oregon, California, Alaska and Minnesota—could do the same.

In order to further simplify the candidate eligibility process, all necessary forms should be available online. Being able to file for candidacy quickly and easily leaves each candidate with more time to gain party support, obtain endorsements, raise money, and create media exposure—the more vital tasks in running a successful campaign. Moreover, making candidate registration information readily available is the first step to increasing candidate participation, and providing more choices for voters in elections that directly effect our communities. In a society that calls itself a democracy, must the process be so difficult and exclusionary?

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