Signatures-in-lieu could benefit candidates in upcoming election
Special to The Union
List of people who turned in Signatures in-lieu for the June Primary Election
Office Name Signatures In-Lieu turned in (Not verified)
Nevada County Assessor Susan Horne 111
Nevada County Auditor-Controller Marcia Salter 100
Nev Co Clerk Recorder/Registrar Gregory J Diaz 75
Nev Co District Attorney Clifford Newell 41
Glenn Jennings 35
Nev Co Sheriff/Coroner/PA Bill Smethers 280
Shannan Moon 323
Nev Co Superintendent of Schools Scott W Lay 280
Nev Co Supervisor District 3 Dan Miller 70
Hilary Hodge 250
Nev Co Superior Judge B Scott Thomsen 32
Robert Lynn Tamietti 20
Thomas M Anderson 36
Nev Co Treasurer Tina Vernon 46
U.S. Senator John Crew 10
U.S. Rep in Congress 1st District David Peterson 19
U.S. Rep in Congress 4th District Jessica Morse 215
Regina Bateson 149
Member of State Assembly District 1 Jenny Lynn O Connell-Nowain 22
Governor of California Josh Jones 40
Secretary of State Mark Meuser 19
Attorney General Steven Bailey 51
During the political season, the old adage, “What’s in a name?” is replaced by “What’s in a signature?”
Often, the answer is financial might and political clout.
The first step in the nearly six-month campaign schedule leading up to the June 5 election is the signature-in-lieu of filing fee period (Dec. 14 to Feb. 7). A candidate for any voter-nominated or nonpartisan office can circulate petitions and solicit signatures from registered voters in each candidate’s district. The past few months, it’s been common to see candidates and campaign volunteers at public events toting clipboards layered with petitions.
The signatures can pay all or defray some of candidates’ filing fees. The cost of filing to run for election varies by the office sought, as does the value of each signature: each signature for a Nevada County nonpartisan office is worth 33-cents; each signature collected in the First Assembly District is worth $1.07.
For example, consider the race for Nevada County Sheriff-Coroner-Public Administrator, an office for which there are three declared candidates. According to the Nevada County Elections Office, the filing fee to run for Sheriff is $1,823.22. The prorated dollar value of each signature is $0.383836. A campaign would need to collect 4,750 valid signatures to offset the entire cost of the filing fee.
Ben Perkins, consultant for the Shannon Moon for Sheriff campaign, said the signature-in-lieu process was a “sprint.”
“The signature-in-lieu filing period for the June Primary goes from mid-December to Feb. 7, so you’ve got the holiday and the first month of the year in there,” he said. “It’s difficult for that time frame. When people are busy with the holidays, it’s tough to shove a piece of paper in their face and ask them to pay attention to politics.”
But the potential benefits exceed dollars and cents, said Perkins.
“The greatest thing is the chance for the candidate, the campaign as an organization, and volunteers to get out there and start meeting people,” he said. “It’s a reason to talk to somebody. There’s no requirement of support with these signatures. It’s not a pledge to vote for that person.
“Our opener is we explain how it’s a way to reduce our filing fee. You’re not trying to be pushy but if someone is interested in signing the petition, you ask if they’re interested in hearing about the candidate, then perhaps volunteering or donating.”
Registered voters may sign only one signature-in-lieu petition for each political office. It’s as simple as printing and signing their names, and providing their residential addresses. The petitions were submitted to the Elections Office last week. A random sample will be verified by staff members if there are more than 100 signatures. With 100 or fewer signatures, each is verified.
M.J. Heltsley, team member of the Bill Smethers for Sheriff organization, said gathering signatures-in-lieu helped energize the campaign.
“It was a great opportunity to collect volunteers among people supporting Bill,” said Heltsley. “They were signing the petitions, then asking, ‘What can I do to help and where can I volunteer?’ We were concentrating on the positives for Bill’s campaign and the excitement around the events we were having, but it was certainly on our radar to get those signatures, so it was a two-fold success. Strong signatures-in-lieu shows there is enthusiastic support of Bill and people are starting to talk about it.”
In addition, Heltsley said it’s important for campaigns to be frugal.
“Every signature does lower the filing fee cost, and we’re working from donations,” Heltsley said. “It’s a small community with a lot of races going on, and we we’re all tapping from the same well. Our supporters want to get Bill in office but they also want us to spend their money wisely.”
Not every campaign collected signatures-in-lieu. Joey Jordan, campaign co-manager for the John Foster for Sheriff campaign, said her troops opted out of the process because they weren’t using it as a campaign tool.
“We announced our campaign in December of 2016, so we didn’t need to utilize that as a campaign launch,” said Jordan. “If your intention is to try to gather enough signatures to effectively reduce your filing fee in a countywide race, that’s a whole strategy in and of itself. But we didn’t feel it was an effective use of our time or resources.”
There’s another benefit to collecting signatures-in-lieu of filing fees. Those signatures can be applied to a candidate’s nomination requirement of at least 20 valid registered voters’ signatures, eliminating the need for a candidate to circulate and submit a Nomination Petition by March 9.
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.