Latest Issue

County Hall Corner: How to Get Your “Running” Shoes On

It was once true of the United States when our Constitution was written in 1787 that even to be a voter, an individual had to be a white male and a property owner over the age of 21. Through the next couple of centuries and the passage of the 14th, 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th amendments to the US Constitution, our egalitarian standards make it possible for virtually anyone over the age of 18 without a felony conviction to be able to vote and also run for a local office.

This year there will be several competitive seats in Lycoming County. For example, school boards in the districts of East Lycoming, Jersey Shore, Loyalsock, Montoursville, and South Williamsport each will have five school board positions on the ballot in 2023, and Montgomery, Muncy, and Williamsport each have four. There are also openings for township supervisors in every single township in Lycoming County. In the city of Williamsport, the ballot will have individuals running for the office of Mayor, Treasurer, Controller, and four positions on City Council.

And for those who believe they have a higher calling, there are three openings for the office of Lycoming County Commissioner, as well as openings for the Lycoming County Controller, Coroner, District Attorney, Prothonotary, Register and Recorder, and Treasurer.

To run for any of these offices, one begins by going online to to get the necessary information. This pops up as “Office of the Voter Services,” and from there, scroll to the third section, “Information for Candidates.” Check out the first heading, “How to Run for Local Office.” The information is very clear, but there are several key points that should be emphasized because there is no margin for error.

The first step is to ensure that you are a resident of the borough, township, ward, etc., that you wish to represent. Believe it or not, this does come up when an individual might actually be on the invisible line between districts and not even know it. If in doubt, check with Voter Services.

The next step is to get a nomination petition form to have your name on the primary ballot on Tuesday, May 16th. These petitions are available at the Voter Services Office located at the Third Street Plaza at 33 W. Third Street in Williamsport, generally a week before the petitions can be circulated. Though these petitions are also generally available online in pdf form, I would strongly suggest that anyone engaging in this process for the first time should go to the Voter Services Office personally. The clerks there are tremendously helpful and will answer any questions you may have.

Dates and deadlines are locked in, and there are no exceptions. The first day these petitions can be circulated is February 14th and the last day is March 7th. If you try to start early, any signature before the 14th would be invalid, as would any after March 7th. Anyone can circulate a petition, but only those with an address for the area that the candidate covers can sign one. For example, I cannot sign a ballot for a Montgomery Borough Council Member because I live in Clinton Township. When I sign my address on a petition for a Clinton Township Supervisor, for example, I write my street name and number followed by “Clinton Township,” even though my mailing address is Montgomery, PA, 17752. If I put my mailing address, it could nullify my petition signature if challenged.

This is another area to consider. Most borough and township offices only require ten names on a petition, and those for county government or representing Williamsport require 100 signatures. However, if I only get the minimum number and an individual wishes to challenge my petition, they would only need to find one discrepancy, and there goes my name off the ballot.

Some folks think it is just easier to run as a write-in candidate, but this has a built-in failure factor related to names. Imagine a “Butch Johnson” running for local office. Everyone calls him “Butch,” but his real name is “Benjamin.”

There might be folks who write in “Butch Johnson,” others use “Ben Johnson,” and still others write “Benjamin Johnson.” Guess what? These would be counted as three different candidates!

I encourage everyone to at least consider the possibility of running for office, even if the incumbents seem invincible. It is important for these people in office to know that they are accountable, and they are only there because of the will of the people. We let royalty live here in our country, but they don’t rule here.