In some states, candidates simply pay a fee to get on the ballot. In Pennsylvania, we use a petition process (plus a fee). To qualify for the ballot, each candidate must secure a number of legitimate signatures, the number of which differ for each position. For a signature to be legitimate, it must come from a voter registered to the party of the candidate, and who lives in the candidate’s district. If a position is contested, meaning more than one person from the party is running, a voter can sign only one petition. For example, in 2018, there are multiple candidates running for Lieutenant Governor this year, so a voter may sign for one of the candidates, but if the voter signs more than one and the petitions are challenged, all petitions for Lieutenant Governor signed by that voter will be invalidated.
So how do the candidates get their petitions signed? Some candidates send people door to door. This is normally the process for hyper-local elections requiring a minimal number of signatures. Thus, someone running to be a Committee Person needs 10 signatures, so he or she will likely go around his/her neighborhood and get 25 people to sign.
Statewide positions such as Governor and Senator each require 2,000 signatures, and for gubernatorial candidates this includes a minimum of 100 signatures from 10 counties. Normally, the goal will be 2.5. to 3 times the required minimum, just in case of a challenge. While candidates will send supporters door to door, there are also parties where a voter can come and sign petitions for candidates up and down the ballot.
Many local party organizations hold petition parties. Sometimes candidates hold them, and sometimes individual voters do! Often there is food, and in many cases voters get an opportunity to meet various candidates. Check out the ICC Events Page to see parties in your area. If you are hosting a petition party, please let us know and we will add it to our calendar.
What offices are up for election this year for which I might want to sign a petition? US Senate Seat – Class 2, all Congressional seats, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Senator in the PA General Assembly (even numbered districts only), and all Representatives in the PA General Assembly.
Does it cost money to attend a petition party? No. There are no costs involved.
Do I have to bring my voter registration card to sign a petition? No, you will not be asked for your card or any other form of ID. To be sure that you are signing the correct petitions, especially for State Senate and State Assembly, you should check your voter registration card to see your assigned districts.
If I can’t find my voter registration card, how do I make sure I’m properly registered? Click this link to check your registration (which is a good idea for everyone to do every year.)
I know I’m registered, but I can’t remember my State districts. Is there a place I can check? Yup. Here.
Will I be able to sign petitions for Congressional candidates at these scheduled petition parties? Maybe. The current petition season is set by the State of Pennsylvania from 13 February through 6 March 2018, for all candidates EXCEPT the Congressional candidates. Right now, packets for those candidates are not available. How soon they are released is dependent on what the PA Supreme Court does with the maps in early February. They may be available within the current window, they may be available later in the window with an extended end date, or the petition process for Congressional candidates may take place beginning after the 6th of March. We will keep you apprised when we have more information. UPDATE: After this post went to press, the state issued the following information:
In accordance with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order requiring a new congressional redistricting plan for the May 15, 2018 primary election, below are the petition filing adjustments to the election calendar applicable ONLY to the office of Representative in Congress:
February 27 First day to circulate and file nomination petitions.
March 20 Last day to circulate and file nomination petitions.
March 22 Ballot lottery.
March 27 Last day for withdrawal by candidates who file nomination petitions.
March 27 Last day to file objections to nomination petitions.
Whether the maps are ready in time is still up in the air. Those maps are required to ensure that voters sign for the correct Congressional candidate, so the dates may change again.
I want to carry a petition around my neighborhood for my favorite candidate. What do I need to do? Contact the campaign, and they will explain the process for gathering signatures, explain the petition itself, and review the requirements for getting the petition notarized.