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How To Run For Office As An Independent In 2023

1 min read
Independent Woman
Jack Nagel · Jan 11, 2023

Introduction

Running for office as an independent candidate in the United States is a unique and challenging experience. It requires time, money, and energy that many people wouldn’t necessarily be able to put towards their candidacy—but those who do run as independents can do so without the pains of picking one of the two major parties. This means not being forced to adopt stances on issues, not taking money from corporate PACs (political action committees), and standing up for what you believe in. This article will walk you through the process of running for office as an independent candidate in your state.

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Decide what office to run for

If you're interested in running for office, the first thing that needs to be decided is what office you would like to run for. Running for local government offices, such as the city council or mayor, are typically less expensive than running for state or federal offices. However, some states do not allow independent candidates and require that all candidates be affiliated with a political party (a requirement known as "party qualification").

Independent candidates can also run in non-partisan elections where voters do not vote on party affiliation but instead select individual candidates based on their qualifications and positions on issues. Non-partisan elections are increasingly common at state and national government levels. However, they can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another, so it's important to check the rules before deciding which office best suits your campaign goals.

Consider the office where you think you will have the most impact as an independent candidate. Though a federal position might seem more powerful and appealing, most people feel politics at the state and local levels. Also, many local positions are already non-partisan, so if you’re planning on running for office as an independent candidate, this may remove the pain of seeming like an outsider. Always consider the impact, feasibility, and competition when deciding to run for office.

Consider a run for office within a committee.

  • Be a member of the committee that runs your district's elections or runs for election to be on that committee (you may want to ask one of the current members if she can help you do this). You'll want to join this group if it's not too late in the game--it takes time and resources to recruit candidates, raise funds, print flyers and other campaign materials, hold meetings, and so on. If any offices are up for grabs during your term (for example, president), consider running yourself!

  • Run as a member of a board or commission: A board is an organized body at any level (local government through state government) which can include elected officials; boards usually have decision-making power over issues such as budgeting/taxation/public works projects; commissions don't have decision-making authority but often advise governing bodies on specific matters related only their expertise (e.g., health care professionals might make recommendations about improving hospital services). You could run for either position depending upon how much involvement you want with public policy making versus just carrying out those policies once they've been made by higher authorities.

File with the appropriate board.

  • Once you’ve decided to run for office, it’s time to work with the proper authorities to start the process of getting you on the ballot. This is the first step of a time-intensive and important process, but it’s important to remember that you need to follow these procedures closely to avoid losing by technicality.

  • Find out which board to file with. If you're running for state representative, you'll need to file with the state board of elections. If you're running for city council or a school committee position in your town or city, then file with your local election department.

  • File with the appropriate board. You can get in touch with either of these boards by calling them directly (or going online). The numbers are available on their websites, and they will be more than happy to answer any questions that you have about filing as an independent candidate!

  • What if I don't know which board? Don't worry about it! It's really easy to find out where to go: just call both numbers above; whichever one gives you the most information about how things work in your area is probably where you should go!

Get informed on the election laws.

To run for office as an independent candidate, you must know your state's election laws.

The Secretary of State's website can be a good place to start. The Secretary of State will have information on the qualifications for the office, the number of signatures required to get on the ballot, whether or not you need to register with their office first, and other details about running as an independent candidate. Their office is ususally the go-to place for making sure you’re following election law.

If you're still not sure what's required by law (or if there are any loopholes that could help your cause), ask local government officials for help. Ask them questions like,

  • Do I need to register as an official political party before I start soliciting signatures?

  • How many signatures does it take in my area? (Some states require more than others.)

  • What are the laws regarding independent candidates? Is there a difference between an independent candidate and a write-in candidate? Can I run as both an independent and a write-in candidate?

  • What timelines do I need to be aware of in advance of the election? 

  • How do I get on the ballot as an independent? 

  • Do I need to be a part of an open primary, or do I just need signatures to get on the ballot? 

  • What financial disclosure rules do I need to follow? Is any financial disclosure necessary before I start my campaign?

Pay the filing fee.

With most offices, you’ll need to pay the filing fee. The filing fee is usually between $75-$200, but can sometimes be much higher for more prominent state and federal offices like governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, or judicial positions. Look on the website of your local election commission or secretary of state to find out how much you need to pay and where to pay the filing fee.

If you are considering running as an independent and interested in learning more about how to get on the ballot and run your campaign, reach out to us!

Gather signatures.

To run for office, you need to gather a certain number of signatures from registered voters in your district. The exact number depends on the size of your district and how many signatures you need. If you want to run for Congress, for example, you'll need 2,000 signatures from registered voters in your district to qualify for the ballot.

If you’re running as an independent candidate or non-major party candidate (which means that more than one person is running on a ticket), then you have several options: gather the signatures yourself, find volunteers to help you collect them, or hire someone else to do it. A strong volunteer network is important for any successful political campaign. Reach out to us to learn how you can find volunteers for your campaign.

Collecting signatures by going door-to-door or canvassing in public places is a great way to quickly get the signatures you need to get on the ballot. Check with your city, county, and state elections boards to make sure you are following the rules for collecting signatures. 

Submit nomination papers.

Submitting nomination papers is the first step in running for office. You will need to submit them to the board of elections, which will then announce that you are a candidate.

The next step is to collect signatures from registered voters within your district. This can be done by having supporters sign petitions outside grocery stores or other public places, or it can be done through a mail-in petition process where each supporter fills out and signs their own petition form before returning it to you for verification.

You must submit it at least 60 days before the election takes place. Still, if you wait any later than that, then it could result in disqualification by the board of elections because it was not completed within the time constraints set forth by law (which vary depending on the state). It's important that submission occurs at least 60 days prior, so voters have enough time to learn about all candidates running for office during campaign season and decide who they want representing them at municipal level government

Get into campaign mode.

If you want to run for office as an independent, you must be prepared to be in campaign mode. Think about it: running for office is a full-time job. You need to do extensive research on your opponent, visit local businesses and community groups, participate in debates and forums, raise money (lots of money), buy advertising time or space in newspapers and magazines, host fundraisers with friends and family who will donate their hard-earned cash to support you…the list goes on and on.

Last but certainly not least important: if you're going up against the big boys (or girls), then unless they've got some serious skeletons in their closet that can sink them right out of contention before election day rolls around…you'll have some money problems yourself!

Register as an independent.

You must register with the secretary of state, county clerk and board of elections. Each state has its own rules for how to do this; check your state's website for specifics. If you're running for Congress or another federal position, you'll also need to fill out an FEC form. In some states, registration is the same procedure as it would be if you were registering as a Democrat or Republican. The important thing is that you follow whatever steps are required by your jurisdiction, so make sure to double-check all requirements before submitting your paperwork! You don’t want to be disqualified for a clerical error (this happens all the time).

You can run for office as an independent candidate!

You can run for office as an independent candidate!

It's true. You don't need to be affiliated with a political party in order to run for public office. This is possible because the United States does not have a mandatory registration system for candidates, so you don't have to register anything with the government unless there's a reason why you want to do so.

In most cases, running as an independent candidate means that you'll need approval from each state's highest election official in order for your name on the ballot (this varies by state). If they approve it and your candidacy meets all other requirements of running, such as age or citizenship status, then you'll be able to get on the ballot and start campaigning! Voters are clamoring for a third option, so you’ll be poised to present an alternative that is exciting to many.

Conclusion

You can run for office as an independent candidate! It will take hard work, and you will lack the traditional party structure of the Democrats and Republicans, but this will work to your advantage. You won’t have to sacrifice your values to earn campaign funds, and you can run on a platform of your choosing without voters automatically assuming your values. If you’re considering a run for office, get in touch with us, and we’ll help guide you through the process.

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By Jack Nagel
I lead the marketing team at Good Party. After watching Bernie Sanders get squashed by the Democrat party twice, I knew I needed to get involved in giving outsiders a chance in American politics. I bring entrepreneurship and startup experience to our insurgent team at Good Party, helping us find sustainable ways to grow.