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.