More Candidates Bypassing Qualifying Fees With Petition Signatures

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PANAMA CITY - Bay County's municipal "Super Tuesday" city elections are next month and candidates are trying to convince voters why they are the best choice.

Before people can vote for them, a lot of candidates need voters help just to get on the ballot. Most now qualify by petition, rather than pay a qualifying fee.

Mike Nichols vividly remembers his 2013 Panama City Commission campaign. Instead of paying the qualifying fee, Nichols got on the ballot getting signatures on a petition.

"I elected to do the petitions for the fact that it gave me an opportunity to get out and see the people that would vote for me and to figure out what their issues are," said Nichols.

Bay County's Supervisor of Elections Mark Andersen says more candidates are choosing that route.

"Well I think one of the reasons is if you can pay the fee, you might need the money to do your advertising and your campaign, which allows you to save those dollars instead of paying a qualifying fee," said Andersen.

Qualifying fees can be costly. City candidates have to pay 1% of the office's annual salary and in some cases a city qualifying fee, or get 1% of registered voters in their area to sign a petition.

Bay County constitutional office candidates have to pay more than $5,000 or get about 1,000 voters' signatures.

State house or senator seats run about $2,000, or require more than 3,000 petition signatures.

For congressional races, the qualifying fee is more than $10,000 or about 4,000 petition signatures.

"The best voice you have is the people that vote for you and you encourage them to get out and vote to help deliver the message you want delivered on their behalf," said Nichols.

If you want to vote in the April 22nd municipal Super Tuesday election, you have to register by next Monday March 24th.