Think your school taxes are too high? Upset that your road hasn’t been paved in years? Do you feel that your local officials ignore your complaints?
Well, you have a chance to right those wrongs come the upcoming May 21 primary as a number of local offices will be on the ballot. In fact, you can do something by running for an office yourself.
Often called an “off election’’ because there’s no presidential or gubernatorial races on the ballot, there’s a tendency to think that elections like this year are not important or at least not as important as other years with big ticket draws.
But nothing could be further from the truth. These are the folks who determine how much you’ll pay in school and municipal taxes. They also determine which roads get plowed first in the winter and which ones get paved in the spring and summer in addition to deciding a myriad other issues which are vital to everyday life.
In addition to local races, there will be a number of countywide contests on the primary ballot. The most interesting election will be the race for two seats on the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas as a number of local lawyers are expected to do battle for those nominations. In addition, there will be several row offices on the ballot, including treasurer, prothonotary, recorder of deeds and jury commissioner.
But overall, the largest number of offices up for grabs will be on the local level as one supervisor from every township will be on the primary ballot with four school board members from every local school district, three borough council members and the mayor of every local borough. Also on the ballot in the city of Connellsville will be the mayoral and controller posts. Uniontown city residents will nominate two council members.
Getting on the ballot isn’t hard, but it’s certainly not as easy as it should be. You’d think that as long as certain requirements were met, anyone wanting to run for office should be able to get on the ballot. But, alas, Pennsylvania has a Byzantine step of requiring nomination petitions to get you on the ballot.
These petitions are an unnecessary extra step — one we imagine is designed to help incumbents — but not a major hurdle for local offices. For council, mayor and township supervisor, 10 signatures is all it takes to get your name added to the ballot. There is also no fee for those offices.
However, there are a few other specific details you would want to familiarize yourself with if you plan on running, including a requirement that petitions can only be circulated by registered members of the party you’re running for. This is especially important for school board candidates who can cross-file and run on both Republican and Democratic tickets.
It’s also important to remember that signatures must be signed by residents of that particular municipality or school district. For instance, candidates for Uniontown City Council must be sure that their petitions are signed by residents of the city. Township residents can’t sign petitions for city candidates. It’s the same for school districts.
For more information, those interested in running for office can contact the Fayette County Election Bureau. But anyone interested in running for office should get the ball rolling now. The first day to circulate and file nomination petitions is Feb. 19, and they must be completed by March 12.
In the end, if you’re unhappy with the way your school district or municipality is being run, you can do something a lot more productive than complain. You can be part of the solution by running for office.