PAUL GLOVER ESSAYS: community control of food, fuel, housing, health care, planning, education, finance.

Run for It:
You can be a winner in local elections

Paul Glover,  Grapevine,  July 1987

Anarchist mobs would rule the streets and bust into your house if we didn't have government, many believe.  Others wonder whether lawmakers do worse damage.

The United States, its counties, cities, towns and villages, have governments to protect us from each other; and we have elections to protect us from government.

Votes are a small part of democracy, cast once to thrice yearly.  Thousands serve our county daily as volunteers, hundreds work on boards and commissions and dozens are elected officers.

But election day can spotlight urgent changes, focus furious debate, announce a new era or pass as ritually as Presidents' Day or the Fourth of July.  The ballot is one tool of the American system; like the free press, courts, police power, rebellion and civil disobedience, it sometimes fits or fails the job.

Most think voting pointless.  Of 220 million Americans who could register to vote, only about 55% have done so.  Abstainers explain that their concerns are not raised by candidates, that they see candidates corrupted by power, and the real decisions make by bankers, so they're rather not bother.  Everybody knows that to run you have to be rich anyway, they say.

Local elections, however, give us all a chance to be low-budget winners.  Small town-votes weigh more-- there have been many won by one or two votes.  And votes get weightier when great issues rouse strong candidates.

When major parties merely party, the stage is set and curtain opens for independent nominations.  Every registered voter can be a candidate, and everybody 18 years or older by election day can register.
Maybe you have a vision or gripe that the Republicans and Democracts don't talk about.  Start your own political party.  Here's how:

Think up a party name (standards vary state-by-state) and symbol.  If you're enraged about loud music and wild parties, you might campaign as the QUIET party.  Taxpayers might revive the GREENBACK party.  The PEACE party could declare a nuclear-free zone.  The IVORY party would fluoridate, and the movement to prohibit shopping could call itself YENOM.  Strong campaigns have been made by parties called Villagers, Citizens, Pioneer, Equity, Common Good, Action, and Creative.
Make a website and print some flyers describing your ideas.
Get nominating petitions from the Board of Elections.  Follow their instructions carefully.  Find three friends to be named atop the petition as your party's committee.
You and anyone eligible to vote for you (registered in any party or independent) can collect signatures from anyone else eligible to vote for you.  Collect far more than you need, then give the petitions back to the Board of Elections by the deadline.  Then watch for challenges to signature validity from opponents.  If you have enough valid legible signatures, you're on the ballot.
Announce your candidacy and its website with a press release and/or visits to local radios, newspapers, cable, bloggers.  They're grateful when you have something novel to say.  Be as public or private as you choose.  Candidates who don't worry about winning have the most fun.  They refresh public debate by speaking freely.  Cautious politicians try to please more voters by saying less.
Knock on doors, say hello, kiss babies, voters and dogs, or just shake hands.  It's sort of like trick-or-treating for grownups.
Participate in whatever public forums you prefer.  Mail more press releases.
Someone may offer to host a tea party or benefit concert to pump your campaign.  Have fun.
    * Report campaign expenses on the required dates.
    * Remember to vote and remind your supporters.
    * Time for another party.
Whether elected or rejected, congratulate your opponent.  Win or lose, you made news.  The world turns a little more your way.