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Workshop explains how to run for local public office, what to expect if elected

7 January 2013 No Comment


Upcoming workshops will promote democracy by giving first-time potential candidates the knowledge necessary for running for local public office.

Penn State Extension of Adams County will host several sessions of “Toss Your Hat in the Ring,” in Franklin, Cumberland, York and Adams counties with the help of the respective elections offices.

In Chambersburg, the workshop is scheduled 7 to 9 p.m. Jan. 23 at Franklin County Administrative Annex, 218 N. Second St. The Cumberland County workshop is scheduled 7 to 9 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Cumberland County Service Center, 310 Allen Road, Carlisle.

According to Judy Chambers, economic and community educator at PSE-Adams County, the workshop comes in the crucial time leading up to when candidates may circulate nomination petitions, Feb. 19 to March 12.

“People get involved at the last minute; they get recruited because there really is in some areas, and that includes Franklin County, there are times where there are not enough candidates,” Chambers said.

Jean Byers, deputy chief clerk of Franklin County, will explain the procedure for getting on the local ballot at the Franklin County workshop. She said the responsibility to fill an office is taken out of the hands of the public and given to the municipality if there are no candidates running for the office and there are not enough write-in votes for a single candidate.

Byers said the field varies with each office; races for school board, mayor and auditor go uncontested more than others.

The workshop will also concentrate on preventing candidates from making procedural mistakes that could cause them to be kicked off the ballot, Chambers said.

These mistakes may include something simple like failing to fill out a complete address, to something that raises suspicions such as electors’ signatures not appearing on the nomination petition in the same order the corresponding dates indicate, Byers said.

“If they read the instructions and do exactly what they’re told to do, the chances of someone trying to kick them off the ballot is low,” she added.

Attendees will also learn about what to expect in holding a public office, via a panel of local officials. Byers said one of the biggest misconceptions is the time commitment; many local offices require only meeting once or twice a month.

“I think that a lot of times the concerns we hear are how much time this is gonna take, how do I balance personal life and public life, how can I make those two work together,” Chambers added. “People are not aware that virtually anyone can run for a public office.”

About 20 to 30 people usually show up at the workshops, which have occurred every municipal election year since Chambers helped resurrect the workshop program in 2006. In surveys conducted on past workshops, elections officials reported less mistakes by candidates and fewer questions, Chambers said.

York’s and Adams’ counties’ sessions will take place in February.

The workshop is $25. Register in advance by calling PSE-Adams County at 334-6271.
Amber South can be reached at asouth@publicopinionnews.com and 262-4771.

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