Guide to Candidate Qualification and Ballot Access: Getting Your Name on the Ballot

To qualify for ballot access, a candidate for office must submit a nominating petition and the additional documents described below to the Board. This information applies to all candidates regardless of the office sought.

For more information on requirements and deadlines for the primary or general election, please ask the Voter Services staff. For information on filing requirements with the Office of Campaign Finance, see http://www.ocf.dc.gov/ or call 202-671-0547.

The Nominating Petition

To appear on the ballot in the District of Columbia, a candidate must circulate and file a nominating petition containing the required number of signatures of registered voters. The number of signatures required for each office is provided in the table titled ‘Signature Requirements’.

The dates for circulating the nominating petitions for the 2010 elections are as follows:

  • May 14 – July 7, 2010 for the Primary Election
  • July 2 – August 25, 2010 for nonpartisan, independent and minor party candidates in the November General Election
  • August 4 – September 3, 2010 for ANC Candidates in the November General Election

Petition forms must be obtained from the Board. The following information must appear on each page:

  • The candidate’s name and address
  • The ward or single-member district of the candidate, if applicable
  • The political party of the candidate, if applicable

Nominating petition forms may be released only to the candidate unless the Board receives a signed written notice from the candidate authorizing the Board to release petition pages in the candidate’s name.

If you need more petition forms during the circulation process, please call ahead so that the Board’s staff can prepare them in advance.

Signature Requirements Partisan Offices
Office Primary Election General Election
Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives 2,000 or 1% (whichever is less) of duly registered voters in the same party as the candidate 3,000 or 1.5% (whichever is less) of duly registered voters
Mayor of the District of Columbia 2,000 or 1% (whichever is less) of duly registered voters in the same party as the candidate 3,000 or 1.5% (whichever is less) of duly registered voters
Chairman of the Council 2,000 or 1% (whichever is less) of duly registered voters in the same party as the candidate 3,000 or 1.5% (whichever is less) of duly registered voters
At-Large Member of the D.C. Council 2,000 or 1% (whichever is less) of duly registered voters in the same party as the candidate 3,000 or 1.5% (whichever is less) of duly registered voters
Ward Member of the D.C. Council (1, 3, 5 & 6) 250 or 1% (whichever is less) of duly registered voters in the same party and residing the same ward as the candidate 500 or 1.5% (whichever is less) of duly registered voters who reside in the same ward as the candidate
United States Representative 2,000 or 1% (whichever is less) of duly registered voters in the same party as the candidate 3,000 or 1.5% (whichever is less) of duly registered voters

Signature Requirements Non-Partisan Offices
Office Primary Election General Election
Ward Member of the State Board of Education (Wards 1, 3, 5 & 6)   200 signatures of duly registered voters who reside in the same ward as the candidate
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (286 to be elected)   25 signatures of duly registered voters who reside in the same Single-Member District as the candidate

Brown Bag Petition Circulator’s Training

The Board’s Voter Services staff conducts training sessions for candidates, proponents of ballot measures, and petition circulators. The training sessions provide an overview of the Board’s guidelines and policies for circulating nominating and ballot measure petitions. We encourage all petition circulators to attend and participate in the sessions.

The training sessions are held every other Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. Attendees are invited to bring a brown bag lunch.

Copies of the 2010 training schedule are available at the Board’s office or on our web site. For more information about training sessions, you may also call the Board at 202-727-2525.

Petition Circulation Guidelines

Below is a set of guidelines each circulator should know before circulating a petition page. If these instructions are not followed, the nominating petition may be invalidated by the Board or through the challenge period described elsewhere in this Guide. If you would like copies of these guidelines to give to your circulators, please ask any member of the Voter Services staff.

Every nominating petition page must have a circulator who witnesses all the signatures on the petition page and then signs the Circulator’s Affidavit. This affidavit is signed under penalty of perjury. It does not need to be sworn to before a notary or Board official.

The Circulator of the Nominating Petition

The circulator of the petition must:

  • Be a qualified registered voter in the District of Columbia
  • Watch each voter sign his or her name to the petition page
  • Complete and sign the Circulator’s Affidavit on the back of each page

It is essential that the circulator personally witness each signature on the petition. A petition may not be left on a table unattended or passed among potential signers if the circulator is not accompanying the petition page. There can be only one circulator for each petition page. That circulator must complete and sign the Circulator’s Affidavit on the back of each page attesting, under penalty of perjury, that he or she personally witnessed each voter’s signature. Failure to complete the Circulator’s Affidavit could invalidate all signatures on the page.

The Signers of the Nominating Petition

Each signer of the petition must:

  • Be a registered voter in the District at the time he or she signs the petition. The signature of a new applicant who fills out a Voter Registration Application at the same time is not valid.
  • Sign the petition using the name under which he or she is registered to vote. Failure to do so could invalidate the signature.
  • Sign his or her own name. A person may not sign a petition for another individual. If a petition signer is unable to sign the petition, the signer may make his or her mark in the space for signature. The signature will not be counted unless the person witnessing the mark attaches to the petition an affidavit attesting that he or she explained the contents of the petition to the signer and saw the signer mark the petition.
  • Provide the residence address where he or she is registered to vote or, if the address provided is different than the address which appears on the signer's registration record, file a change of address within 10 days of any challenge to the candidate’s nominating petition. The street name and number must be provided on the petition. The signer may not use a Post Office Box Number.
  • Provide the date on the petition when signing. Ditto marks should not be used.

If the candidate is seeking nomination in a primary election:

  • The signer must be registered in the same party as the candidate.

If the candidate is seeking nomination as a member of a minor party or as an independent:

  • The signer may be registered with any or no party.

If the candidate is seeking nomination from a ward:

  • The signer must live and be registered to vote in the same ward as the candidate.

If the candidate is seeking nomination from an ANC single-member district (SMD):

  • The signer must be registered to vote in the same SMD.

A voter may sign the nominating petition of more than one candidate seeking nomination for the same office. However, a voter may not sign the petition for an individual candidate more than once.

The Declaration of Candidacy and Affidavit of Qualifications

Every candidate must file a Declaration of Candidacy and Affidavit of Qualifications (“Declaration”). The Declaration is reviewed by the Board to preliminarily determine if the candidate meets the qualifications to hold office. The Declaration may be obtained at the Board’s office or downloaded from the Board’s web site.

While petitions and other forms may be completed by campaign supporters, the Declaration must include the signature of the candidate. The Declaration must be filed by not later than 5:00 p.m. on the last day prescribed for the close of the nominating petition period as follows:

  • Wednesday, July 7, 2010 for the primary election
  • Wednesday, August 25, 2010 for independent and minor party candidates in the general election
  • Friday, September 3, 2010 for candidates for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner

A member of the Board’s staff may notarize a candidate’s Declaration, provided that the candidate appears at the Board’s office with the form completed except for his or her signature and signs the document in the presence of the Board’s staff.

Note that information provided on the Declaration of Candidacy is a matter of public record and may be published for circulation to the general public, posted on the Board’s web site, and given to the news media and other persons upon request.

Affidavit of the Person Filing the Petition

The person submitting the petition must file an Affidavit of the Person Filing the Petition attesting that, to the best of that person’s knowledge and belief, the nominating petition contains the required number of signatures.

The Affidavit is filed by the person making the initial submission of the nominating petition pages. The initial submission must contain the minimum number of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. After the initial submission is made, supplemental petition pages containing any number of signatures may be filed at any time, up until the deadline for filing the nominating petition.

Tips on Filing the Petition – Checklist

  • Arrive at the Board’s office early and prepared to file.
  • Before filing the nominating petition, assemble and serially number all the sheets which comprise the petition. The Board may reject any petition that does not meet this requirement.
  • Make sure the Circulator’s Affidavit on each petition page is completed and signed.
  • Make sure you have your Declaration of Candidacy completed and notarized. If you plan to have a member of the Board’s staff notarize the Declaration, arrive at the office with the form completed except for the signature. The Declaration must be signed by the candidate. It may not be signed by anyone else.
  • Make sure you have the Affidavit of the Person Filing the Petition completed and notarized. If you plan for a member of the Board’s staff to notarize the Affidavit, arrive at the office with the Affidavit completed except for the signature.
  • File the minimum number of signatures early so that, if a document is missing or someone makes an error, there is still time to correct the deficiency before the deadline for filing the nomination petition. Remember, you can always file supplemental petition pages up until the deadline once you have made the initial filing with the minimum signature requirement.
  • Review your petition before filing. Petitions must meet all the requirements of the law. The Board may reject any petition that does not conform to either the Election Code or the Board’s regulations.

You can check your petition signatures prior to filing by reviewing the list of registered voters that is available for public use in the Board’s office and at various public libraries. This list is also available electronically. To order an electronic copy of the voter registration list, see the Obtaining Voter Registration Data section of this Guide, visit our web site or call the Board at 202-727-2525.

Determination of Preliminarily Qualified Candidates

On the third working day after the deadline for filing nominating petitions, the Executive Director determines preliminarily whether each prospective candidate who has filed both a Declaration and a nominating petition is legally qualified to be a candidate for the office sought. Each prospective candidate is notified of the preliminary determination by both first-class and certified mail.

Under D.C. law, absent a challenge, the Board does not verify nominating petition signatures for accuracy of information. In its preliminary evaluation, the Board will reject a candidate’s petition for any one of the following reasons:

  • The petition, on its face, does not contain the minimum number of signatures required for ballot access.
  • The petition contains pages that do not have a completed Circulator’s Affidavit and the total number of signatures rejected as a result of the incomplete Affidavit on those pages brings the candidate’s petition below the minimum number of required signatures.
  • There has not been a notarized Declaration filed by a candidate.
  • Information on the Declaration indicates that the candidate does not meet the legal qualifications to hold the office.

Also, the Board may reject a candidate’s petition if there is no notarized Affidavit of the Person Filing the Nominating Petition.

The Challenge Period

For a ten-day period beginning on the third day after the deadline for filing nominating petitions, the Board makes available hard copies and electronic images on CD of each candidate’s petition for inspection and challenge. During the challenge period, any registered voter may review the petition copies. If he or she believes that a candidate’s nominating petition fails to meet the minimum requirements for ballot access, the registered voter may file a written Challenge detailing the petition’s defects.

The ten-day challenge periods for the 2010 elections are as follows:

  • July 10 – July 19, 2010 for the September Primary
  • August 28 – September 7, 2010 for nonpartisan, independent and minor party candidates in the November General Election
  • September 7 – 16, 2010 for candidates for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in the November General Election

The filing of a written Challenge sets in motion the process for a legal determination as to whether the candidate has, in fact, met the minimum requirements for ballot access. The Registrar reviews the Challenge and the nominating petition to verify the validity of the Challenge. Failure to file a complete and concise Challenge may invalidate the Challenge. Petition signers whose residency is challenged because they have moved from the address listed on the Board’s records may validate their signature by filing a change of address within ten days of the Challenge to the nominating petition containing their signature.

Petition Defects to Avoid

In most instances, candidates are denied ballot access because they have not taken the time to carefully review the signatures on their petitions before they are filed. Candidates may avoid challenges by making sure that their petitions meet the minimum requirements for ballot access. Below is a list of the most common petition defects to avoid:

  • The signer is not registered to vote.
  • The signer was not registered to vote at the address listed on the petition at the time it was signed and did not file with the Board a change of address within 10 days of a challenge to their residency.
  • The signer is not registered in the candidate’s party (primary only).
  • The signer is not registered in the candidate’s election district (Ward or Single Member District only).
  • The petition signature is not dated.
  • Signatures on the petition are in the same hand or do not match those of the registered voters in the Board’s file. The nominating petition may be referred for criminal prosecution.

Any one or any combination of the above petition defects may cause a candidate to be disqualified from the ballot if enough signatures are disallowed to bring the candidate below the minimum number of valid signatures required. Therefore, the Board suggests that you file more than the minimum number of signatures needed to qualify.

Write-In Candidates

Write-in candidates must meet the same legal qualifications as candidates whose names appear on the ballot. Qualified individuals who wish to become write-in candidates must certify their candidacy by filing an Affirmation of Write-in Candidacy with the Board no later than 4:45 p.m. on the third day following the primary election, and no later than the seventh day following the general election.

In order for a write-in candidate in the primary election to qualify as the nominee of a major party and have his or her name printed on the general election ballot, he or she must receive more votes than any other candidate running for the party’s nomination and timely file an Affirmation of Write-in Candidacy, which may be obtained at the Board’s office or downloaded from the Board’s web site.

The total number of votes cast for each write-in candidate will be calculated only in contests where there is no candidate printed on the ballot in order to determine a winner, or where the total number of write-ins reported on Election Day is sufficient to elect a write-in candidate.

The deadlines for filing Affirmations of Write-in Candidacy for the 2010 elections are as follows:

  • Friday, September 17, 2010 for the Primary Election
  • Tuesday, November 9, 2010 for the General Election

Advisory Neighbor Commission (ANC) Elections

Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) are neighborhood-based boards that may advise the District’s elected officials and other government with respect to all proposed matters of District government policy, including decisions regarding planning, streets, recreation, social service programs, health, police protection, and sanitation in their neighborhood area. (D.C. Official Code § 1-309.10).

ANCs are subdivided into smaller communities, each consisting of approximately 2,000 residents, called single- member districts (SMDs). There are 37 ANCs and 286 SMDs. ANCs range in size from two single-member districts to twelve single-member districts, depending on the size of the neighborhood.

Each SMD is represented on an ANC by an ANC Commissioner. The ANC Commissioner is an unsalaried official who is nominated and elected in a nonpartisan election by the registered voters who reside in the same SMD as the candidate. The term of office for an elected ANC Commissioner is two years.

The Board provides a variety of materials, including a map of the SMD and a list of registered voters, to make it as easy as possible for ANC candidates to have their names placed on the ballot. Please call our Voter Services Office at 202-727-2525 for details.

Write-In Candidates for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner

Write-in candidates for the Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner must meet the same qualifications as candidates whose names appear on the ballot. Individuals who wish to become write-in candidates must certify their candidacy by filing a notarized Affirmation of Write-In Candidacy with the Board by no later than 4:45 p.m. on the seventh day following the general election (Tuesday, November 9). The Board encourages write-in candidates to file prior to Election Day.

An Affirmation of Write-In Candidacy may be obtained from the Voter Services Office or downloaded from the Board’s web site.

Lottery for Ballot Position

The Board conducts a lottery for ballot position to determine the order of the names on the ballot in each contest. Each candidate or his or her designated representative may be present for the ballot lottery. The Board notifies, by first-class mail, each candidate appearing on the ballot of the date and time of the ballot lottery, which also appears on the Official Election Calendar. This notification will also indicate how the candidate’s name will appear on the ballot, as indicated in the Declaration filed by the candidate.

If there is a successful petition challenge or a candidate timely withdraws his or her candidacy after the date of the ballot lottery, the position of the remaining candidates’ names will be advanced accordingly.

The dates for the ballot lotteries for the 2010 elections are as follows:

  • July 23, 2010 for the Primary Election
  • September 17, 2010 for the General Election
DC Board of Elections
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Washington, DC 20001
Tel: (202) 727-2525 | TTY: (202) 639-8916 | Tollfree: 1-866-DC-VOTES
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