COUNCIL PRESIDENT CLARKE ANNOUNCES MAY 20 SPECIAL ELECTION

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030414 spesh mcdPhiladelphia, March 4, 2014City Council President Darrell L. Clarke on Tuesday announced he would issue a writ of election to fill the At-Large Council seat vacated on Feb. 18, 2014, by Bill Green, now chairman of the School Reform Commission. The election will take place on May 20, 2014, the same day as Pennsylvania primary elections.

Council President Clarke will issue the writ of election on Monday, March 24, 2014. The Pennsylvania Election Code requires a writ of election be issued within 60 days of the designated election date.

“In order to give the County Board of Elections time to prepare the voting machines and for other steps required by the Election Code, and in order to avoid having other required steps fall on a weekend, I will issue the writ of election on Monday, March 24,” Council President Clarke said.

The special election will be a one-step (not primary) election, with the winner serving the balance of the term to which Councilman Green was elected, until Jan. 4, 2016. The Pennsylvania Election Code determines the procedures to follow:

The deadline for each party to file its nomination certificate designating its candidate is April 8, 2014, or 15 days following the issuance of the writ.

Democratic and Republican parties select one candidate each according to their internal party rules. There is currently one “minor political party” in Philadelphia: the Libertarian Party. That party also may select one candidate according to internal party rules.

Anyone intending to run as an independent may begin circulating petitions to get their names on the ballot on Monday, March 24, the same day the writ of election is issued.

“Anyone who wants to serve the people of Philadelphia ought to have an opportunity to do so. I urge all those interested in running for this seat as Independent to contact the County Board of Elections in Room 142 in City Hall or at 215-686-3943,” Council President Clarke added.

Independent candidates must collect a minimum of 1,785 valid signatures to get on the ballot. Democrats and Republicans wishing to run as Independent candidates must re-register their party affiliation as Independent by the date they file nominating papers.

The deadline for each political party to file nomination papers is the same as the deadline for the parties to file their nomination certificates:  April 8, 2014.

All registered voters, regardless of party, may vote in this special election. The deadline to register to vote in this election is April 21, 2014.

“I encourage all Philadelphians who aren’t already registered to get registered and vote on May 20. The predictions of a low turnout this spring are troubling. If you want more representative and responsive government, whether in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, or Washington, D.C. – you must take the time to vote,” Council President Clarke said.

Information on how to register to vote can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of State’s website, http://www.votespa.com/.

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Procedures that Apply for Special Election to be Held on May 20, 2014 to Fill the Vacancy in City Council

I. Setting the Date and Issuing the Writ of Election

Under the Home Rule Charter:  “The President of Council may fix as the date of the special election, the date of the next primary, municipal or general election.”

The Council President is required by the Pennsylvania Election Code to issue a writ of election “within sixty (60) days” of the election that he designates as the date for the special election.  In addition, the Charter requires that the election be held no less than 30 days after the writ is issued.

It is important to issue the writ as soon as legally possible, in order to give the County Board of Elections (headed by the City Commissioners) time to prepare the voting machines, and in order to leave time for the steps required by the Election Code in advance of a special election.

For the special election on May 20, 2014, the writ will be issued Monday, March 24, which is 57 days before the election. Using this date will avoid having other required steps in the schedule fall on a week-end.

II. Who Can Vote in this Special Election? 

All registered electors in Philadelphia will be eligible to vote in this special election because this will be a final election (not a primary).  

III. Getting Nominees on the Ballot 

This is a one-step election:  the winner will be chosen by the voters on May 20.

Nominees of the two major political parties, independent candidates and a nominee of the one “minor political party” in Philadelphia (the Libertarian Party) can be placed on the ballot. The Pennsylvania Election Code determines the procedures to follow:

Nominees of the Democratic and Republican Parties

Because this is a one-step election, there are no primaries where registered Democrats elect a nominee to represent the Democratic Party and registered Republicans elect a nominee to represent the Republican Party.

Instead, the Democratic and Republican  parties select one candidate each according to their internal party rules.  There is no requirement that candidates obtain signatures from voters on nominating petitions.

The deadline for each party to file its nomination certificate designating its candidate is April 8, 2014.  (The Election Code requires filing within 15 days of the issuance of the writ.)

Independent Candidates – A Different Procedure

Note:  The following information provides a general overview of the process that independent candidates follow to place their names on the special election ballot.

For anyone intending to run as an independent candidate, it is essential to contact the County Board of Elections to obtain precise guidance and the proper forms.  The County Board of Elections – Room 142 City Hall – can be reached at 215-686-3943.

An independent candidate cannot get on the ballot on his or her own.  Instead, she or he must be the nominee of a “political body” and must obtain a specified number of signatures from registered voters on “nomination papers.”  The political body consists of all the people who sign the nomination papers.

The Election Code specifies in great detail what must go on a nomination paper, and forms are available from the County Board of Elections.  Among other things, the nomination paper will include the name of the candidate and a name for the political body (up to three words), both of which will be printed on the ballot.

Eligibility Restriction.  A person who is registered as a member of the Democratic or Republican Party cannot be the nominee of a political body in a Philadelphia special election unless she or he re-registers as an independent voter before filing his or her nomination paper.

Signature requirement.  Each political body must obtain a certain number of signatures on the nomination papers in order to have the nominee’s name placed on the ballot.  The number is determined by a formula in the Election Code, and in this case, the minimum number of valid signatures required is 1,785.  This number was calculated by the County Board of Elections.

How is that number derived? Under the Election Code’s formula, the political body must gather signatures equal to at least two percent of the largest vote cast for any candidate at the most recent past election at which candidates seeking to represent the same area were elected.  (Judges are not counted as “candidates” in this formula.)  In this case, the number of signatures, as determined by the County Board of Elections, equals 2% of the vote recently cast in the election for District Attorney.

The first day to circulate nominating papers and gather signatures is the day the writ is issued.

All electors registered in Philadelphia can sign a candidate’s nomination paper, whether they are registered as members of a party or as independent voters.  However, each registered elector can only sign one nomination paper since there is only one office to be filled.

Detailed procedures govern the circulation of nomination papers, which the County Board of Elections can explain.

The deadline to file nomination papers is the same as the deadline for the parties to file their nomination certificates:  within 15 days of the issuance of the writ, or April 8, 2014.

Nominee of a Minor Political Party

Under the Election Code, if a political body’s nominee receives a specified percentage of votes in a final election, that body can obtain the status of a political party for the next election.  Depending upon the percentage of votes received, the party will either be a major political party or a minor political party.

Currently, there is only one minor political party in Philadelphia:  the Libertarian Party.

In a special election, a minor political party nominates its candidate in the same way that the major political parties do:  it selects one candidate according to its internal party rules.  There is no requirement that the candidate obtain signatures from voters on nominating petitions.

The deadline for the Libertarian Party to file its nomination certificate designating its candidate is the same as the deadline for the major political parties and for political bodies: April 8, 2014.

Under the Election Code, a person who is registered as a member of the Democratic or Republican Party can be the nominee of a minor political party.  (This is different than the rule that applies to the nominee of a political body.)

IV. Challenges and Other Procedures

Additional procedures and deadlines may come into play once the nomination certificates and nomination papers are filed.  For example, the deadline to file objections in court to nomination certificates and nomination papers is April 11, 2014, and the deadline for a nominated candidate to request the withdrawal of his or her name is April 15. The County Board of Elections has a full schedule of dates and deadlines for this phase of the election.

V. Deadlines for Voters to Remember

April 21, 2014            Deadline to register to vote for the Primary (and Special) Election

May 20, 2014             The date of the Special Election (same date as the Primary Election)

VI. How Long Will the Winner of the Special Election Serve?

The winner of the special election will serve the balance of the term to which Councilman Green was elected – until the first Monday of January, 2016.

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