How do I get 6000 signatures in five months?
January 22, 2010 9:49 AM   Subscribe

How do I get 6000 signatures in five months?

I am running for public office. Because I am unaffiliated, I need to get 6000 signatures to be put on the ballot. I have five months to do so. The signatures have to come from registered voters in my county. There are about 150,000 of them. What would be the best and most efficient way to go about trying to get those 6000 signatures?
posted by flarbuse to Law & Government (12 answers total)
I don't know if it's legal for this purpose, but various scumbags here in Washington state keep putting initiatives forward using paid signature gatherers. I recall hearing it costs a little under $1 a signature.

Other than that the traditional method is hitting the big sporting and community events with a few enthusiastic volunteers.
posted by ecurtz at 10:14 AM on January 22, 2010

The most efficient way is to hire people, which will cost usually about $1/signature plus staff costs. If you have the money to do this, then you'll first want to hire an experienced person to hire and manage the staff. You can expect well-trained signature-gatherers to average 25-30/hour at festivals/well-trafficked areas, and about 10/hour going door-to-door.

Honestly, though, 6000 signatures in 5 months is pretty doable with volunteers too. Find a few dedicated volunteers (best friend? Mom?) and get them going out regularly to collect signatures. When you recruit more volunteers, the early ones can train and manage them. You can expect volunteers to get about half the signatures/hour that paid staffers do. There's also a lot more attrition with volunteers, so you have to constantly be training and recruiting new people. But this is actually a good thing - once you file, these early people will be the heart of your campaign and frankly your only chance of winning as an unaffilated candidate.
posted by lunasol at 10:15 AM on January 22, 2010

Are there any street fairs, farmer's markets or other outdoor events coming up in your area? You could try that. You could also ask permission from a local supermarket to stand outside and solicit for signatures, which is obnoxious, but less obnoxious than going door-to-door.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:16 AM on January 22, 2010

As you gather signatures, you also meet constituents. I refuse to sign petitions for paid signature gatherers, but will sign most candidate petitions if some person wants them on the ballot. If you are part of any political group, ask people to sign. Go to high school sports events, college campuses, etc.
posted by theora55 at 10:17 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Shoot for 1600 a month. That is 400 signatures a week.

Plan out how to get 400 signatures each week. A clipboard outside of a grocery store on weekend afternoon could get you 200. So plan on doing this every weekend afternoon until you have enough.

Plan out what locations in your county have enough people on weekend afternoon to gather signatures. Figure out a schedule to visit each of them.

Have any friends (aka campaign staff?) Work them in to your schedule.
posted by gus at 10:32 AM on January 22, 2010

Do you have any colleges nearby? I imagine you could probably hire a handful of college students to solicit signatures for an hourly rate fairly easily.
posted by at 10:37 AM on January 22, 2010

Remember that not every signature is valid (e.g. not a voter, someone signed twice, Donald Duck!, etc..). You will need to aim for more than 6000 signatures. I've seen numbers from paid signature gathers come in from 70% being valid to over 90% being valid.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:23 AM on January 22, 2010

Don't discount your friends. If you have ten friends who can do 40 per week that eases the burden on you. Volunteers are not the same as paid signature gatherers.
posted by anastasiav at 11:28 AM on January 22, 2010

Is there any particular issue you're keen to campaign on? Something local? Parking charges at hospitals, school/clinic/community centre closures, more frequent litter collections, better bus routes, that sort of thing?

I don't know what office you're running for or whether you're allowed to mention issues when you're campaiging. "Sign here for Mr Smith because I'm asking you nicely" wouldn't make me sign, but "sign here for Mr Smith who wants to stop the old folks home being closed" would. If you have an area you're campaigning on, then it's automatically easier to get signatures. It's also easier to network with likeminded community groups and activists.
posted by somergames at 12:23 PM on January 22, 2010

Shoe leather. If you have lists of registered voters (your local GOP and dem parties have these), you can aim for 10-20% more than you need. If you're going door to door, you may want to shoot for as high as 50% more than you need.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:17 PM on January 22, 2010

If you have lists of registered voters (your local GOP and dem parties have these),

You don't have to go through the political parties. The local election commission will provide them.
posted by desjardins at 2:23 PM on January 22, 2010

Flarbuse, I have no idea what state you live in, but everyone who has told you to aim for more signatures than you need is dead right. Be prepared for things to get ugly.

Obviously things are going to vary from state to state and between urban and rural areas, but if your area has a strong political machine and they think you'll take votes away from their chosen contender, they will bring their best lawyers to destroy your signatures.

I recently covered some of New York City's municipal elections, and found the Gotham Gazette's "video game" tutorial of the petitioning process tremendously illuminating.

You may also be interested in this story I wrote about how the fight over petition signatures for a spot on the Democratic primary ballot turned out.

I can say that in Queens, at least, candidates get their hands on the voter rolls and then they canvass block by block with as many assistants as they can get. And then they spend thousands and thousands of dollars taking one another to court.
posted by DeWalt_Russ at 7:35 PM on January 22, 2010

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