Cheyenne Wiles with San Benito County Elections Department displaying filing documents. Photo by Vivian Guadalupe Sierra.
Cheyenne Wiles with San Benito County Elections Department displaying filing documents. Photo by Vivian Guadalupe Sierra.

This article was written by BenitoLink intern by Vivian Guadalupe Sierra 

As the San Benito County Office of Elections prepares for another candidate filing period, community members can learn more about running for local office themselves.  

“One of the great things about our country is our participatory democracy,” said Francisco Diaz, San Benito County’s clerk-recorder and registrar of voters. “We have a right and responsibility to be involved, whether it is indirectly by voting or directly by running for office.”

For those interested in running for office, there are eligibility requirements that must be met.

All candidates, regardless of position sought or jurisdiction, must be a registered and eligible voter at the time of election within the county they will perform duties. 

A registered voter must be a United States citizen, 18 years or older, and a resident within the state and/or county they’re running for office. An eligible voter refers to being in a state of mind where they are not currently found mentally incompetent to vote by a court. 

The candidate must also not be currently serving a state or federal prison term for the conviction of a felony. According to California Government Code 1021, “A person is disqualified from holding any office upon conviction of designated crimes specified in the Constitution and laws of the state.” San Benito County District Attorney Joel Buckingham said certain crimes like theft of public funds and treason disqualifies an individual from running for office. He added the Constitution or the penalty for a crime must state it disqualifies people, if convicted, from holding an elected position as a consequence.

“A general conviction say for a misdemeanor driving under the influence is not a bar to public office, nor running for office,” he said. 

Further eligibility requirements for candidacy vary by position and jurisdiction. For example, a candidate may be required to have been a citizen for a minimum amount of seven to nine years for district, state and federal positions. Likewise, the age requirement can also range. Some positions may require the candidate to be a minimum of 18 years old, whereas others may require the candidate to be at least 30. Specifics of background experience among government branches or even residential information may also affect eligibility. 

For local City Council candidates, the individual must be a registered voter within the council district at the time nomination papers are issued. Candidates for San Benito County Board of Supervisors are required to reside within the county and district of position they are seeking. And a person running for Hollistser mayor must reside within the city limits. San Juan Bautista City Council candidates are also required to live within the city limits.

General documentation process

Beyond meeting eligibility requirements, candidacy also consists of a documentation process. 

Diaz said legislators have increased the amount of documentation needed to run for office in the last decade. 

“This has made the process more difficult,” he said. “Time evolves and there are a lot more factors that need to be taken into consideration.”

According to San Benito County’s 2022 General Candidate Handbook, the following forms are mandatory: Candidate Pre-Registration, Nomination Papers, Statement of Economic Interests (Form 700), and Campaign Disclosure Statements (FPPC Forms). 

Ana D. Maquiz, chief deputy clerk-recorder-elections, told BenitoLink, “Candidates can pre-register at their home, which takes about 20 minutes, and then come into our office to finish declaring their candidacy.”

Candidate pre-registration will open Sept. 1. Maquiz said the 2023 Candidate Handbook will be available this month, but did not give a specific date. San Benito County Elections will be hosting an in-person Candidate Information Forum at the SBC Board of Supervisors Chambers on Aug. 15 at 5:30 p.m. Those interested in filing for candidacy will learn how and when to file candidate documents and important election dates.

Dom Zanger, who was recently elected to the Board of Supervisors District 1 seat, said, “I was very surprised at how easy the process was, given that I wasn’t familiar with it. I think the staff at the Elections Office did a wonderful job at explaining the process to me.” 

Filing cost

According to Maquiz, the exact costs for 2023’s filing fee, in-lieu signatures and candidate statement, won’t be known until Oct. 22. Estimated costs for each will be included in the 2023 Candidate Handbook, Maquiz said, noting that in the last election, the cost of the candidate statement ranged from $250-$450.

For updates on documentation and deadlines, contact SBC Elections Office at (831) 636-4016 or visit the county’s website.

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