The Road to the March 7, 2017 Election – Part 2: Public Examination Period and Litigation

This series will provide a cursory overview of the steps needed to run for local office in Los Angeles County. The information provided is not intended to be legal advice. Readers should be cognizant that other local rules may apply in addition to state law.

In my last blog post, I covered candidate eligibility requirements and the steps (aka paperwork) needed to get on the March 7, 2017 ballot. This article will discuss the public examination period that occurs immediately after the filing period for nomination documents.

December 10-19, 2016 is the Public Examination Period for Candidate Statements, Candidate Names, and Ballot Designations. Recall that your submitted nomination documents include your name, and optionally a candidate statement and ballot designation. During the examination period, those materials will be open for public viewing.

The purpose of this is to allow voters in the relevant district to challenge impermissible content. Examples could include an inaccurate name or a misleading ballot designation (i.e. claiming you a medical doctor when it fact you’ve never even been to medical school). It could also include false or misleading statements in the candidate statement. State law also imposes limitations as to form and subject matter:

  • Candidate statements generally cannot exceed 200 words.
  • Statements cannot include the candidate’s party affiliation, nor their membership or activity in a partisan political organization.
  • Statements cannot not refer to opposing candidates.

So how does a voter challenge a candidate statement? A voter can ask a court to issue an order directing the elections official to delete or change the statement accordingly. This order may come in the form of a writ of mandate or an injunction.

For a candidate, this process could be a legal tool to take recourse against an opposing candidate who is being deceptive about him/herself in official ballot materials. At the same time, this could be used against you to gut your ballot statement or to cast doubt about your name or occupation.

The important thing to note is how things can unfold very fast and sudden during the examination period. You only have 10 days from the time you can first read your opponent’s materials to file a petition for a deletion or change. Fail to act and objectionable materials can make it to the voter pamphlet. When the court process is initiated, it is much faster than other court processes. The court tries to reach a decision before the materials are printed on the voter pamphlet, so the challenge is resolved well before the election.

At the same time, in a less contentious election, the examination period can go by very quietly, as it often does. Nevertheless, it serves a candidate well to be aware of the nature of the public examination period lest they be caught off guard when they are suddenly served with court papers.

My next few posts will be focused on candidates who plan or anticipate on raising or spending over $2,000. Part 3 will discuss treasurers and bank accounts. Part 4 will discuss campaign finance disclosures that will need to be filed prior to the election.

The Road to the March 7, 2017 Election – Part 1: Getting Started

This series will provide a cursory overview of the steps needed to run for local office in Los Angeles County. The information provided is not intended to be legal advice. Readers should be cognizant that other local rules may apply in addition to state law.

Resources

If you are running for local office (i.e. city council or school board) it is likely that your county administers the election. As such, counties provide information about running for office:

Regardless of county, you should be aware that you may be subject to campaign finance reporting requirements and conflicts of interest rules. You should get a hold of this handbook from the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Many more handbooks will be inundated upon you as you initiate your candidacy.

Initiating Your Candidacy

Eligibility

Before running for office, the first legal question on your mind should be whether you are eligible for that office. Municipalities tend to have residency requirements, requiring a candidate to have resided in the city or district for a certain amount of time. Some districts take it a step further and require candidates to be a registered voter of that district. There may also be a citizenship requirement, as it is for the California Legislature.

Applying for Your Nominating Documents

If you are eligible for office, then you can start your candidacy. Your candidacy starts when you file your nomination documents with your county’s registrar of voters. In Los Angeles County, the filing period for the March 7, 2017 election is from November 14, 2016 to December 9, 2016.

But before you can file your nominating documents, you will have to apply for them first. A candidate must first fill out a Candidate Registration and Qualification form. Information from that form is used in the Application for Nomination Documents.

Nomination Documents

When you execute your Application for Nomination Documents, you can then file your nomination documents. This includes:

  • Declaration of Candidacy (declares your candidacy, provides your ballot designation, and has you take a loyalty oath).
  • Ballot Designation (allows you to put a title underneath your name on the ballot, such as your profession or current elective office).
  • Candidate Statement Form (allows you to submit a candidate statements for the voters to read on their ballot).
  • Candidate Campaign Statement Forms (these are your initial campaign finance registration and disclosures required under the Political Reform Act).

What must be included in the Candidate Campaign Statement Forms varies from candidate-to-candidate, which unfortunately makes this following section somewhat complex.

Candidate Campaign Statement Forms

Most candidates will have to file a Statement of Economic Interests form (state law provides a list of categories designating who must file). It exists because state law seeks to restrict elected officials from using their power to benefit their own financial interests. As such, candidates may be required to disclose their financial interests in this form.

Other filings will depend on how much money you plan to raise or spend. If you plan on raising or spending less than $2,000, at the very minimum, you should a file:

  • Candidate Intention Statement (informs the Secretary of State of your intention to be a candidate).
  • Officeholder and Candidate Campaign Statement – Short Form (this discloses committees that you know are raising and spending money on behalf of your candidacy).

Note that if you later end up raising or spending money in the amount of $2,000 or over, you will have to file additional documents. This brings us to the situation where candidates raise or spend $2,000 or more. In that situation, you should file:

  • Candidate Intention Statement.
  • Statement of Organization (your level of financial activity now requires you to register as a committee).

Be aware that the Statement of Organization registers you as a “committee.” Committees have various responsibilities, including maintaining a separate bank account, designating a treasurer, maintaining detailed records, and making disclosures. These responsibilities will be discussed in further detail later in this series.

This completes your packet. Once submitted, you will be placed on the ballot and officially become a candidate in the March 7, 2017 election. But what comes next? The next article in this series will discuss the public examination period for candidate statements, candidate names, and ballot designations. It occurs after the deadline for filing nomination documents, from December 10-19, 2016.


Photo credit: Elliot Stallion

Can’t afford a family law attorney? Free or low cost legal services are available.

Free or Low Cost Legal Services

There are many free or low cost nonprofit legal services available for indigent individuals in the Los Angeles area who need help with a divorce or other family law issues. Some may provide full representation until the end of your case, while others may only provide consultation or self-help services.

The following list list is not exhaustive and serves as a starting point for locating these services:

APABA Monthly Legal Clinic

The Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Los Angeles holds a free monthly legal clinic every second Tuesday of each month (6:00 – 8:00 pm). The clinics are held at: Monterey Park Public Library, 318 S. Ramona Ave., Monterey Park, CA 91754.

Pasadena Bar Association Monthly Clinic

In conjunction with Public Council, the Pasadena Bar Association holds a free monthly legal clinic every second Saturday of each month (9:00 am – 12:00 pm). The clinics are held at: Jackie Robinson Community Center, 1020 N Fair Oaks Ave, Pasadena, CA 91103.

Legal Document Assistants

You may see advertisements for inexpensive legal document preparation by legal document assistants (LDAs). LDAs provide, for compensation, self-help services to people representing themselves in a legal matter.

These individuals are not attorneys. As such, they cannot provide legal advice or represent you in court. They may file and serve documents, but only at that client’s specific direction.

The pitfall is that you are still your own attorney. A LDA cannot help you decide on a legal course of action or advise you on your legal rights. If they do, they run the risk of unauthorized practice of law, which can be subject to criminal penalties.

Be aware of the differences between engaging an attorney and a LDA.


Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to be legal advice.