Petitioning onto the Ballot

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

For months, I had been talking about petitioning onto the ballot. That’s how you obtain ballot access if you don’t win at the convention in a “single town” district. As a Democrat challenging a 23-year incumbent Democrat, it was expected that I wouldn’t win the party’s endorsement at the “convention.” I know all of this sounds like ‘inside baseball’, but I didn’t know it either until I decided to run and began researching how you actually go about that. With that said, researching something and actually doing it are two very different things.

Getting people to sign a petition in support of a Democratic Primary is hands down one of the most interesting parts of running for office thus far. We had from May 25th-June 12th to collect signatures from 5% of registered Democrats in the 18th district where I’m running for State Representative. We were given a list from the Town Registrar of Voters that indicated the actual number of signatures we’d need to obtain was 343. We set a goal of 500 signatures to be safe. I’m an optimist so I figured this wouldn’t be too hard a task…

On the first day we started collecting signatures I was really overcome by emotion. It was powerful to be using the democratic process to give people a choice and to challenge the stagnant status quo. On day two I realized how antiquated the system is. Equipped with iphones and an app with the voter database, there we were with a clipboard, paper, and pen asking people for their signature. We were required to use the forms given to us by the Town Registrar of Voters which required us to collect someone’s printed name, street address, birth date and signature. Some folks weren’t comfortable sharing all of this information and many questioned what happened to the papers once they were complete. Also, if we lost one of the papers or someone wrote too messy, the signature wouldn’t count.

That first weekend of collecting signatures happened to be West Hartford’s Memorial Day Parade. We used this as an opportunity to raise awareness about the campaign and collect signatures. Unfortunately, all but a handful of the signatures collected that morning didn’t count because people either didn’t live in the district or weren’t registered democrats. This experience made us realize that our best bet to getting the signatures we needed was good old fashioned door knocking! Having planned for this moment for months, we always figured that collecting signatures would be a wonderful way to get to know the voters. It sure was. We door knocked every evening from 5-8PM and weekends 10AM-4PM to collect the requisite signatures.

In order to expand our reach, we engaged an amazing team of “circulators.” This is the official term for people who agree to collect signatures. They too needed to be registered Democrats in the district. After collecting signatures every circulator had to sign the back of the paper in front of an officer of the court. Our circulators were amazing and helped us to collect a bulk of the signatures. We also used social media to get signatures, posting pictures of our walk card and a blank signature sheet asking folks to comment below the post if they were interested in signing. Then, volunteers would follow up and arrange a time to have the person sign. We also held open porch hours, where folks could stop by within a certain time frame to sign the petition.

When all was said and done, we collected over 600 signatures, 463 of which we determined to be eligible signatures under the requirements. This process was hard work, a lot harder than I had anticipated when it was merely a plan. That said, it was so worth it and it was possible. We did it and now my name will appear on the 2018 Democratic Primary ballot. Democratic Voter in West Hartford have a choice in their State Representative for the first time in 23 years! This is what democracy looks signature at a time.