Municipal election season begins next week

Though it will be lost in the heat of this November’s state and federal elections, Champaign City Council members — and anyone who wishes to become a Champaign City Council member — have an important date approaching.

Aug. 24, less than one week from now, is the first day that the April candidates may begin circulating nomination petitions. That period leads up to the one-week candidate filing period beginning Nov. 15.

Up for grabs in Champaign on April 5 will be the three at-large seats (now held by Tom Bruno, Deborah Frank Feinen and Karen Foster), Gordy Hulten’s District 5 seat and Mayor Jerry Schweighart’s office. You can see a full list of city council members, who they represent and when their terms expire by clicking here.

Because of a election rule change this year, there could be more candidates than usual on the April ballot. Usually, February primary elections would eliminate some candidates if several declare candidacy for a particular seat, giving voters a more concentrated choice.

According to a memo circulated at last night’s city council meeting, primaries are less likely now because of a rule that calls for a primary election only if the number of candidates is more than four times the number of seats available for that office.

That means five candidates for mayor would have to declare candidacy for the one-person office to require a primary election. If only four were to file, that means we would have four names on the April ballot (although Schweighart has run unopposed in his past two ballot appearances).

As many as 12 candidates could file for the three at-large positions and forgo a primary election. That number would be pared only if a 13th candidate filed.

It’s very unlikely that 12 people would declare candidacy for a city council seat, but theoretically, (in an even more unlikely situation) that would mean three people could become city council members with as little as 9 percent of the vote each.

And by the way, if you plan to run for municipal office, a good rule of thumb is to first contact your local newspaper’s city beat reporter to let him know.

Questions or comments? Please feel encouraged to post them below, e-mail me or send me a message on Twitter.

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