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How to Run for Public Office

Watch the webinar on How to Run for Municipal Office here 

The burden is on the candidate to familarize themselves with the laws surrounding running for public office.  Candidates should review the Campaign Finance Overview for Local Candidate Committees before asking the Election Commission for assistance.

State law and local ordinances require the completion of several forms when running for office.  Each of these forms can be found at our Candidate Packet Forms section.

2024 Spring Election Ballot Access Checklist

STEP 1: FILE CAMPAIGN REGISTRATION STATEMENT (CF-1)

Candidates are prohibited from campaign fundraising or incurring campaign expenses until this form has been filed with the City of Milwaukee Election Commission. This form requires you to:

  • Identify the office you will be pursuing
  • List the bank information for your campaign finance account
  • Provide the name and contact information of your campaign treasurer
             You may act as your own campaign treasurer.  However, due to the complexity of completing the forms correctly, the Election Commission encourages you to select someone for this position that has a good familiarity with Excel spreadsheets and tracking expenses and revenue.

STEP 2: FILE DECLARATION OF CANDIDACY

(EL-162) or DECLARATION OF CANDIDACY FOR SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES (EL-162SD)

The Declaration of Candidacy is due to the City of Milwaukee Election Commission no later than 5:00pm on the day of the deadline for filing nomination papers.

STEP 3: CIRCULATE YOUR NOMINATION PAPERS

Completed nomination papers must be submitted to the City of Milwaukee Election Commission no later than 5:00pm on the day of the deadline.

Read all instructions relating to the distribution of nomination papers to ensure that each page of your signatures meets circulating requirements. All nomination signatures are reviewed by the City of Milwaukee Election Commission and may be challenged by other candidates running for office. 

If a signer’s address is not legible or valid, or the person resides outside of the area represented by the officeholder, the signature will be disqualified. While it is not required, you are encouraged to collect at least 100 signatures more than the minimum requirement. You are also encouraged to verify the addresses included on your nomination papers on Where Do I Vote? before submitting them. Once nomination papers are submitted, no changes can be made. 

STEP 4: COMPLETE THE STATEMENT OF ECONOMIC INTERESTS FORM

Municipal Candidates (Mayor, Alderpersons, City Attorney, City Comptroller, City Treasurer): The Statement of Economic Interests form and instructions will be posted on our website after December 1st each year. This form is due to the City of Milwaukee Election Commission by 4:30pm on the 3rd day following the deadline for filing nomination papers.

Municipal Judge Candidates: Complete and submit a Statement of Economic Interests (SEI) to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission, 212 East Washington Avenue, 3rd Floor, P.O. Box 7984, Madison, WI, 53707-7984, no later than 4:30 PM on the 3rd day following the deadline for filing nomination papers. Any time after December 1st, a candidate may electronically enter and submit the Statement of Economic Interests form with the Wisconsin Ethics Commission at sei.wi.gov.

School Board Candidates: Milwaukee Board of School Director candidates are exempt from this filing requirement.

STEP 5: CERTIFICATION BY THE ELECTION COMMISSION

All nomination paper signatures will be reviewed after the deadline for submission. In some instances, the Election Commission may ask you to provide a corrective affidavit if errors have been made on a nomination page. If your nomination papers are complete (there are a sufficient number of valid signatures) and all other filing requirements have been met, your nomination papers will be certified as sufficient by the Election Commission and your name will appear on the ballot. If there are not enough valid signatures on your nomination papers or you did not complete all filing requirements, your name will not appear on the ballot.

If more than two candidates are certified for one office, there will be a primary election for that office. The order of candidate names on the ballot is determined through a random drawing selection process. Notice of the drawing is provided to all candidates and the public is invited to witness this process.

You may not remove your name from the ballot once your nomination papers have been certified.

STEP 6: SUBMIT CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORTS

Unless you have declared an exemption (you do not expect to raise or spend an aggregate of over $2,500 on your campaign in a calendar year), all candidate committees MUST file campaign finance reports. We will email a reminder prior to each filing due date as indicated on the Campaign Finance Report Filing schedule. However, you are responsible for filing a campaign finance report whether or not you receive the reminder. Campaign finance schedules and reporting requirements can be complex and require significant attention to detail and an ability to learn and understand reporting instructions.  You are encouraged to select a campaign treasurer that is reliable and organized.  All reports must be complete, accurate and meet full public disclosure requirements.

Filing Challenges to Nomination Papers

Anyone who has valid information that information contained in the papers or other ballot access documents violates the rules or state statutes applying to those documents may file a challenge. The burden of proof is on the challenger to establish any insufficiency, and if the challenger establishes the information is insufficient, the burden shifts to the challenged candidate to establish sufficiency.

A sworn complaint listing the insufficiencies and citing the statutes/rules that are violated must be submitted in writing to the filing officer for the office the candidate in question filed for. A template for a sworn affidavit can be found in the Elections Administrative Code EL 20.30(2) but is not required to be used. The complaint must be filed with the filing officer within 3 calendar days of the nomination paper filing deadline.  The Milwaukee Election Commission accepts electronic filings via email to [email protected]Alternatively, the Milwaukee Election Commission also has notaries on staff and are happy to provide notary services for any complaints in our office.

Please utilize the following Wisconsin Election Commission rules and guides when filing challenges:

Are You Ready to Run?

The process of running for office in the City of Milwaukee is guided by Wisconsin Election and Campaign Laws, chapters 5-12 and the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC).  An important role of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission is to provide information and assistance to any person interested in running for public office in the city. However, as per Wisconsin state law: Any person interested in running for office has the burden and responsibility of understanding and complying with candidate filing and campaign finance reporting requirements. 

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