Penn State Extension offering seminars on process of seeking office

January 23, 2013|By JENNIFER FITCH |

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Mayors, judges, borough council members, township supervisors and school board directors will be chosen in this year’s election cycle in Pennsylvania.

Individuals wanting to run for those offices need to circulate petitions and gather nominating signatures from Feb. 19 to March 12. They can learn more about the process at seminars hosted by the Penn State Extension.

“What we really try to emphasize is that the people who govern local offices or a school district are just like you,” said Judy Chambers, Penn State Extension educator.

Candidates for office do not need special backgrounds, Chambers said.

“I think sometimes people are hesitant to run for office because they don’t think they’re qualified,” she said.

A seminar will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Franklin County (Pa.) Administrative Annex on North Second Street in Chambersburg, Pa. The fee is $25, and walk-in registration will be accepted.

Other seminars are planned in Carlisle, Gettysburg and York, Pa.

Tuscarora School Board member Chris Ardinger attended the last seminar in Chambersburg two years ago. Now, he will be a panelist sharing his election experiences with attendees.

“They just walk candidates through every single thing you need to know about getting on the ballot and completing financial reporting forms,” he said.

For potential school board members, the election process can generate questions because candidates can cross-file, Ardinger said.

In Pennsylvania, registered Republicans and registered Democrats vote only for candidates from their own party in the primary election. However, school board and judge candidates can cross-file to appear on both ballots.

Franklin County Deputy Chief Clerk Jean Byers said most offices require just 10 valid nominating signatures for someone to appear as a candidate on ballots. County offices, like treasurer, require 250 signatures for 2013.

Byers, Chambers and Ardinger said they would advise candidates to obtain more than the required number of signatures in case the validity of some is challenged.

Candidates must be at least 18 years old and, for most offices, have lived in the municipality for a year preceding the election. Pennsylvania law also has a few other requirements, some of which can lead to head scratching.

“If they want to be a school board member, they need to be of ‘good moral character,’” Byers said.

Ardinger said he tells people that serving in local office is “amazing.”

“It truly is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have,” he said.

The primary election is scheduled for May 21 and the municipal election is set for Nov. 5.

For more information about the Penn State Extension seminars, call 717-334-6271. The Franklin County Election Board can be contacted at 717-261-3810.

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