Running for mayor as an independent candidate starts pretty easy.
It’s a five-minute session at the city clerk’s office.
This brief background piece covers some of the nuts and bolts of that process, based on Steve Bean’s Tuesday afternoon appearance on the second floor of city hall at the city clerk’s office. As a bonus, there’s a bit of city history thrown in.
After Bean told Lyn Badalamenti in the city clerk’s office that he was there to pick up nominating petitions, she set to work assembling a sheaf of papers. The spelling of Bean’s family name was the first order of business: “Like the vegetable,” he offered. Next up: A choice between “Steve” versus “Steven.”
The name that potential signatories of Bean’s petitions will see – as well as voters looking at November’s ballot – is “Steve.”
His name will be recognizable to some readers from his service on the city’s environmental commission. He now chairs that body. Before that, he served for nine years on the city’s energy commission. Some city records, especially older documents like city council minutes from April 9, 1992 – which contain the record of his appointment to the energy commission – show Bean’s name as “Steven.”
But the choice for the shortened variant was one he’d thought through before Badalamenti asked him: “That’s how people know me,” Bean explained to The Chronicle.
In the category of “the more things change,” those April 9, 1992 minutes indicate a discussion of over-exuberant University of Michigan basketball fans who apparently aroused concerns about public safety. They were celebrating the team’s advancement to the Final Four in the NCAA tournament. [The Wolverines lost in the final game that year to Duke University.]
In the category of “the more they stay the same,” the minutes indicate that one of Bean’s fellow energy commission appointees was Weston Vivian. Vivian, like Bean, goes by the shortened version of his name – that’s “Wes.” And Vivian spoke this past Monday to the city council during a public hearing on the Google Fiber initiative. Vivian told councilmembers that if Google doesn’t choose Ann Arbor as a location to install a fiber network, the city needs to figure out another way to make it happen.
Also in the category of things that stay the same are the petition requirements that Badalamenti handed to Bean as part of the sheaf of papers that all candidates receive. That packet includes:
- 400 lines worth of qualifying petitions – 20 pages with 20 lines apiece
- a sheet of rules for candidates who are circulating nominating petitions for city offices
- a message from Washtenaw County clerk Larry Kestenbaum, outlining the campaign finance reporting requirements
- the statement of organization form for candidate committees from the Michigan Department of the State Bureau of Elections
- the form for the post-election campaign finance compliance statement
- an affidavit of identity and receipt of filing
The qualifying petitions were copied with Bean’s name already filled in. That’s why Badalamenti needed it – to comply with the city charter requirement that petitions specify the person on whose behalf the petitions are to be circulated:
13.8 (b) Before the Clerk furnishes petition forms to any person, the Clerk shall enter thereon, in ink or by typewriter, the name of the person in whose behalf the petition is to be circulated and the name of the office for which the person is a candidate. No petition form which has been altered with respect to such entries shall be received by the Clerk for filing.
It’s not illegal to obtain and circulate petitions on behalf of someone else. But it’s not possible to place someone’s name on the ballot against their will:
13.10 (a) When petitions are filed by persons other than the person whose name appears as a candidate, they may be accepted for filing only when accompanied by the written consent of the person in whose behalf the petition was circulated.
Bean will need to collect at least 50 signatures from each of the city’s five wards for a total of at least 250. It’s not possible to engage in the intimidation tactic of collecting a number of petitions massively in excess of the minimum [emphasis added]:
13.8 (a) [...] Each petition filed by or on behalf of a person seeking nomination to the offices of Mayor shall be signed by not less than 250 nor more than 350 registered electors including at least 50 signatures of residents of each ward. [...]
The petition filing deadline for independent candidates like Bean – those without a party affiliation – is different from the deadline for candidates contesting one of the party’s primaries:
Act 116 168.590c Sec. 590c.
(1) A qualifying petition for an office shall be filed with the filing officer authorized to receive a partisan nominating petition or a certificate of nomination for that office.
(2) A qualifying petition for an office elected at the general November election shall be filed not later than 4 p.m. of the one hundred-tenth day before the general election. A qualifying petition for an official elected at an election other than the general November election shall be filed not later than the deadline established by statute or charter for filing a partisan petition or certificate of nomination for the office or at least 90 days before that election, whichever is later.
This year, 110 days before the Nov. 2, 2010 general election translates to July 15, 2010.
After filing petitions, it’s possible to change your mind and not have your name appear on the ballot. But it’s a narrow window:
(3) A candidate who files a qualifying petition shall not be permitted to withdraw his or her candidacy unless a written notice of withdrawal is filed with the filing officer who received the petition. The notice shall be filed not later than 4 p.m. of the third day after the last day for filing a qualifying petition.
For candidates contesting either the Republican or Democratic primary, the deadline for filing petitions is determined by the 12th Tuesday before the Aug. 3, 2010 primary – May 11 this year.
Finally, for citizens who are asked by prospective candidates for office to sign their nominating petitions, signing does not represent an obligation to vote for that person come election day. But there is a kind of obligation attached – signing nominating petitions for different candidates for the same office results in the disqualification of both signatures:
13.9 (b) If any person signs a greater number of petitions for any office than there will be persons elected to that office, that person’s signature shall be disregarded on all petitions for that office.
The city of Ann Arbor website has additional information on filing petitions for Ann Arbor city office on the city clerk’s page.
Steve Bean, 46, is vice president of Berg & Associates, Inc. He designs database management systems for Berg clients. Peter Schermerhorn will serve as Bean’s campaign treasurer.