Ins and outs of ballot access

Saved! At the closing bell for party candidates, Democrat Chris Keefe of Ellsworth and Republican Mark Remick of Trenton stepped up to run for state representative for District 132, representing Ellsworth and Trenton. The seat was vacated by the term-limited Louie Luchini, a Democrat, and until perilously close to the March 15 deadline, there were no candidates.

Filing to run is not a simple matter. Candidates qualified for office by age and residence gain access to a ballot by filing petitions with the secretary of state’s office with the requisite number of valid signatures. An independent candidate still has until June 1 to file. Independents do not participate in primary elections, but they are required to obtain twice the number of signatures on petitions as a party candidate (200 for state senator, 50 for state representative).

There is a further restriction for independent candidacy. Party members must have withdrawn from their party by March 1 to run as an independent in this election cycle, so anyone enrolled in a party after that date would not be eligible. The opportunity now is open only to those who were registered “unenrolled” prior to March 1.

The other way to get on the ballot is through a write-in. No, you could not have won the Ellsworth seat by getting your mother to write you in on the ballot. Write-in candidates must qualify for the ballot, too. That includes filing a “declaration of write-in candidacy” (available from the secretary of state) by April 13 for the primaries or by Sept. 7 for the general election.

For the primary election, write-in candidates must meet the same qualifications for age and residency as any other candidate and must have been enrolled in the party for which they seek nomination by March 15. To be declared the primary winner, a write-in must receive twice the number of votes as were required on a petition for that office.

Theoretically, a write-in candidate could get the most votes but not be declared the winner if he or she fell short of doubling the petition signature requirement. The name of a write-in candidate who wins a primary would then appear on the general election ballot.

For the general election in November, a write-in may designate any one of Maine’s four official parties (Republican, Democrat, Green Independent or Libertarian) as his affiliation or may create a designation of his own choosing, up to three words, none of which may be “obscene, contemptuous, profane or prejudicial.” The general election candidate with the most votes, write-in or otherwise, wins.

Increasing the challenge of running as a write-in, voters must be aware that they need to fill in the oval marked “write-in” and then correctly enter the candidate’s name. Distributing stickers to your supporters to make sure your name goes on the ballot correctly? Nope. Stickers are not allowed.

Anyone thinking about running, this year or any other, should get on the secretary of state’s website and check out the “candidate’s guide to ballot access.” It’s a compendium of what you need to know to run, presented in a clear and comprehensive way.

As for the other Hancock County races, every one is a contest. District 134 (Deer Isle, Stonington and the off-islands west to Vinalhaven) was the last to gain a second candidate.

Democrat Genevieve McDonald of Stonington is now opposed by Republican Philip Brady of Deer Isle.

There is just one primary contest in the county. For the Senate District 7 seat, Luchini, of Ellsworth, looking to shift to the Senate after four terms in the House, is being challenged by Ian Schwartz of Seal Harbor.

As for the governor’s race, the pool of party candidates shrank by the March 15 deadline. After only one withdrawal, the Republican pool is set at five. Seven Democrats have withdrawn from the race, leaving seven others in the contest. That still could change. The deadline to withdraw is April 3. Among the withdrawers is Hancock County’s Marty Vachon of Mariaville.

Neither the Greens nor the Libertarians have gubernatorial candidates left in the race, but five independents are still working to qualify. Prediction: Two will likely do so. Want to name names? Okay. Terry Hayes will make it, and Alan Caron knows the state well enough that he should, too. John Jenkins has limited name recognition, a hindrance to gathering petition signatures, while Ethan Alcorn and Kenneth Capron have no recognition at all.

The next deck-clearing will come with the primaries, though a few wannabes may fall by the wayside before that. The candidates are out and about, and we still have winter downtime to figure out our choices. Need we remind you? No complaining allowed if you don’t do your homework and vote.

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.

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