I’ve just confirmed with the City Clerk’s office that the following persons will be on the ballot in November 2011:
- Peter Gajewski
- Phyllis Marcuccio
- John Hall
- Tom Moore
- Bridget Newton
- Virginia Onley
The deadline for getting on the ballot is Friday, September 9, so I suspect more names will be added this next week.
If you’re not familiar with the process, it’s not required of any other elected officials serving Rockville–not the County Council, our State Delegates, or State Senator. Each candidate has to submit a petition signed by one hundred registered Rockville voters along with their request to be placed on the ballot. Superficially, it sounds like a nice way to separate the wheat from the chaff, but it’s very hard to do. Most of us don’t know 100 registered Rockville voters, so you have to find them at shopping centers, the Metro stations, or walking your neighborhood. Because most strangers don’t want to be bothered, it provides a major advantage to incumbents who have name recognition and a existing pool of supporters. Complicating matters is that you have to sign the petition exactly as you registered to vote with the Board of Elections or it won’t count. And after Congresswoman Giffords’ shooting in Tucson, shopping centers are shooing away political activities to avoid a repeat of that tragedy. So now it’s more than just an exercise in identifying serious candidates, it’s become one of Donald Trump’s projects out of “The Apprentice”. It may be legal (but I’m guessing it’s as legal as poll taxes), but this process of collecting 100 signatures isn’t required at county or state levels of government (our neighboring City of Gaithersburg requires 100 signatures, but are they our model?). Has it ensured a better quality candidate? Or has it dissuaded good residents from running? Why one hundred?
Interesting questions. I think the 100 signatures was the City’s way of insuring serious candidates running as opposed to Mickey Mouse and other joke candidates.
I have gone through the process of collecting signatures twice now. I believe Rockville’s signature requirement strikes just the right balance. It keeps people from just falling onto the ballot, yet it is not too onerous a requirement for those with a serious desire to serve in elective office.
Running for office in Rockville means walking door-to-door all fall long; walking door to door to collect signatures to get on the ballot is an excellent warmup. One hundred seems just about right. If a person finds that they do not enjoy the task of collecting signatures, they have a clear indicator that elective office in Rockville may not be the ideal way for them to serve.
I think the signature requirement is certainly legal, and justifiably so — the requirement disadvantages no one based on their race, gender, age, or other protected class. I also think it is good public policy. It ensures better quality candidates, not by excluding anyone, but by making everyone who jumps through its hoops a stronger and more knowledgeable candidate. For instance, my children and I made the useful discovery that Town Center is a terrible place to collect signatures — most people there live outside the city limits. Yet this is great news for Town Center merchants, and it was a good thing to learn firsthand.
I can’t say I agree that the signature requirement disadvantages challengers. I found almost everyone I met to be perfectly willing to sign my ballot petition this cycle *and* last cycle.
These are just my experiences. I look forward to seeing if others have different experiences to relate.
You’re right. The 100 signature rule is antiquated, favors incumbents, and subjects potential candidates to the dangers that Congresswoman Gifford received. This should be repealed.