Meet John Doe: Get involved — run for local office

By Paul Gorski

Some people contribute to the community with donations, others through volunteerism, and yet others by running for public office. The filing period for the 2014 election cycle began Sept. 3, and the race is on to get petition signatures. Circulate your nominating petitions now!

What are nominating petitions, you ask? An election cycle primer is in order.

Oversimplifying it a bit, there are three major election cycles locally: presidential, gubernatorial and municipal. Certain years, we elect the president of the United States and certain other local and county officials. Voter turnout is greatest during presidential elections.

And in still other years, usually in the spring of certain odd-numbered years, we elect municipal (city), township, school board and other local officials. Voter turnout for these elections is the weakest, sometimes amounting to 20 percent or less of eligible voters.

We’re in a gubernatorial election cycle now. In November 2014, we will be voting for governor and other major state officers. We will also be voting for U.S. senator and U.S. congressional representatives, in addition to state representatives and certain state senators and court judges. Local races include Winnebago County Sheriff, Clerk, and Treasurer; some county board members; and a few other local officials. Voter turnout is good, but not great, for these races.

To have your name on the ballot, you should circulate “nominating petitions” for the desired office and get the signatures of local registered voters. You may only circulate nominating petitions during a specified time period. The circulation period for the established party candidates started Sept. 3 and ends Dec. 2, 2013. You must file these petitions with the appropriate election authority between Nov. 25 and Dec. 2, 2013.

The circulation period for independent and new political party candidates begins March 25, 2014, and petitions must be filed between June 16 and 23, 2014.

Why do I need to get signatures? Historically, collecting voter signatures was a way to ensure candidates were serious about running for office. Most candidates file as a Democrat, Republican or an independent candidate. Signature requirements (numbers) for independent and third-party candidates are more stringent than the requirements for Democrats and Republicans.

I encourage greater electoral participation and support “equal ballot access” — signature requirements should be the same for every candidate in the same race, independent of party affiliation. Some day.

Depending on how many people file for an office, a primary race may be held in the spring to determine who is on the November ballot. If no one files petitions as a Democrat or as a Republican, those parties may choose to place a person on the ballot after the primary.

I haven’t listed all the races and all the exceptions to the rules. I recommend these resources from the Illinois State Board of Elections for a list of races and basic election information: “2014 Candidates Guide” ( and the “2014 Election and Campaign Finance Calendar” (

Locally, please contact the Winnebago County Clerk or the Rockford Board of Election Commissioners (if you live in Rockford) for a complete list of upcoming local races or to obtain the forms you need to file.

If this is all new to you, you might not be ready to run right now, but plan for the future.

Paul Gorski ( is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.

From the Sept. 11-17, 2013, issue

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