Running for office as a Republican is needlessly difficult. It’s a system that is crying out for reform.
Just to get on the ballot, Republican candidates must go through the “petition process,” getting petitions from the Board of Elections and getting them signed by not less than 3% of registered Republicans in the district in which they’re running. To accomplish this, the candidate and members of the Republican Committee, all good people and volunteers, go door to door to obtain the required signatures. A Republican candidate for Corning Town Council, for example, will need about 70 signatures to appear on the November ballot.
Gathering signatures may sound simple. It is not. Citizens can be reluctant, even defensive, when asked to sign a document they’ve never seen before. They ask, “What is this? Why do you need my signature? What for? Why are you bothering me with this?” Lengthy explanations are necessary.
Finally, the completed petitions are submitted to the Board of Elections, and only then does the candidate get on the ballot. At this point, the committee members are done, and it is up to the candidate to campaign in the fall election. No one can blame the committee people for feeling they have done enough.
Republicans front-load all their volunteer time and energy into signing petitions. It’s hard to imagine a greater misallocation of people’s effort.
In contrast, the Democrat Committee in the Town of Corning does not circulate petitions to put their candidates on the November ballot. They caucus and select a candidate. I’ve never met a Democrat who is burning to circulate a petition or is angry because they did not sign one. They don’t waste their volunteers’ efforts months before the general election. Democrats focus on the contest that matters—THE ELECTION! In 2017, Democrat Committee members in the Town campaigned alongside the candidate and helped elect a Democrat in a largely Republican district.
I rarely agree with Democrats on anything, but they have us on this one. New York is a deep blue state that gets bluer by the day. As of now, Democrats enjoy at least a 2:1 advantage over us in voter registration. Doesn’t it make sense to put our energy into the November election?
We are, incidentally, discouraging good Republicans from running for office.
We need to abandon petitions and go to a caucus system. We need to change the role of a committee person from late winter signature-gatherer to fall campaigner. Republican Committee members could concentrate on knocking on doors, distributing literature and lawn signs, stuffing envelopes – in short, doing what is necessary to win an election. The focus of committee members should not be on getting signatures in March, but on helping candidates win in November.
Michael A. Morrongiello, Ph.D.