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How to Run for Office

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 Step #1 CHECK ELIGIBILITY AND QUALIFICATIONS with your filing officer.  For schools and special districts, contact the Registrar of Voters. For cities, your respective city clerks are your filing officers. Utilize the "Look-Up Your District" electronic service to determine where you are eligible to vote.  There are many different rules for qualifying for elective office. Information can be found in Divisions 6, 7, 8, 10 and 13 of the California Elections Code.  The Registrar of Voters (ROV) prepares a helpful candidate guide for the nomination process for each election. The guide is posted below. You may also contact the Candidate Services Division via phone at 408-299-8639 or email [email protected]

Step #2: FPPC FILINGS such as the 501, 470, 410, 460 (filed electronically), and 700 depending on what applies to your situation, must be filed before spending, raising funds, or any contributions towards the candidacy. Instructions are provided in each form. 

Note: Per the County of Santa Clara Ordinance No. NS-300.857, officeholder, candidate, or committee is required to file their semi-annual campaign statement, a pre-election statement, an amended campaign statement, or the original of a 24-hour report, a supplemental report or a late report during an election cycle with the Registrar of Voters electronically. 

See links below for checklist and forms. 

 FPPC Checklist, FPPC Forms 501, 470, 410, 460, 700

Step #3: NOMINATION ISSUING begins July 15, 2024, to August 9, 2024. Depending on which type of contest a filing fee may be required at the time of issuing nomination forms. You may request an appointment with our election specialists between July 15, 2024, to August 6, 2024, on the first come first serve basis. Request for an appointment by emailing [email protected].  Due to high traffic expected on the final days of the nomination period, (August 7, 2024, to August 9, 2024) our office will only be accepting walk-ins. We highly encourage our candidates not to wait until last minute to file. Early filing helps streamline the process and reduces the risk of encountering issues close to the deadline. You can get started by filling out the forms below.  Please note that submitting these forms does not constitute qualification. 


Step #4: NOMINATION FILING ends at 5:00 pm on August 9, 2024. All documents must be filed at once including nomination signatures, if applicable. If someone other than the candidate will be filing the nomination documents on their behalf, an authorization letter is required. Candidates are responsible for paying any fees associated with candidate statements, due at the time of filing nomination documents. Government-issued identification card must be presented to the filing officer. 

Step #5: CHECK STATUS to view candidate filing activity in the county. Please visit the November 5, 2024, Presidential General Election Resources webpage, to access the Unofficial Candidate List which will be updated daily during the nomination period after 5:00 PM.

Guides and Trainings


Nomination papers are generally available at the Registrar of Voters (county election office).  If you plan to become a candidate for any city office, you must obtain the proper nomination papers from your City Clerk.

In general, you will need to be a registered voter living within the boundaries of the district that you wish to become a candidate. The only exceptions to this rule are for federal (US Senator and US Representative in Congress) and judicial candidates, however, those elected to US Senate or Congress must reside in the state while serving. There are certain offices where the requirements are more stringent (minimum days of residency, obtaining a degree or having years of experience, etc.). Under the California Education Code, an employee of a school or community college district may not be elected to office in the same district they are employed. For further information, please contact the Candidate Services Division, or the District Office that you are interested in.

Each candidate must file paperwork and take an oath in order to have their name placed on the ballot. Types of nomination documents are: Declaration of Candidacy, Ballot Designation Worksheet, Declaration of Intent, Nomination Papers, and Candidate’s Statement of Qualifications (and fee, if applicable).

Some candidates will be required to submit additional nomination documents and pay filing fees which may be reduced by collecting signatures. For example, a candidate seeking the office of Superior Court Judge will be required to pay a filing fee, file a Declaration of Intent, submit proof of qualifications under Elections Code Section 13.5 and collect nomination signatures in addition to other paperwork, while a candidate running for school board governing member will not have those requirements.

The candidate filing period is established by law (California Elections Code) and begins on the 113th day and ends on the 88th day prior to the day of the election when the offices will appear on the ballot.  However, some offices have additional filing requirements that must be met earlier. For more information, please contact the Candidate Services Division.

No, the Candidate Services Division (CSD) team does not require you have an appointment. However, you may find that having one can help your visit move along quicker. And, the earlier you complete your paperwork, the sooner you will qualify and can officially begin your campaign. The CSD team may assist over 200 candidates in a four-week period, with most candidates making more than one visit to the Registrar of Voters. During the last week of the nomination period, it can be extremely busy and candidates who wait until the last few days may have to wait up to an hour for a team member to be free to help.

Beginning with the 2020 elections, the Registrar of Voters now offers candidates the opportunity to receive some of their paperwork via a secure online portal and schedule face-to-face appointments via live video chat. Contact the Candidate Services Division for details.

Depending upon the office sought, there may be a Signature in-Lieu (SIL) petition (optional, to reduce the amount of a filing fee) and/or a Declaration of Intention required for candidates running for local superior court judge as a part of the nomination paperwork. These filing periods may open as soon as 60 days before the first day of the general nomination period (see first question). Please contact the Candidate Services Division for more information.

There may be two different types of filing fees associated with your candidacy. There may be a filing fee necessary to obtain nomination papers for the office you seek, and there is likely a filing fee to submit a written candidate statement of qualifications for office that will be translated, printed and distributed to voters inside the local County Voter Information Guide.

Some offices do require a filing fee, and typically relates to the salary earned for the elected official, if there is one.  The filing fee is based upon a percent of the annual salary for the position (1%, 2%, etc.). Filing fees are not refundable, even if you do not qualify or decide you no longer wish to run for elected office.

If you plan to submit a written statement to be translated, printed and distributed to voters in the local County Voter Information Guide (CVIG), there will be a fee collected at the time you file. This fee is typically based upon the number of voters in the district you seek and by the total number of candidates who may file a statement. This fee is an estimate only and may be amended after the election. This fee may be refunded, if you withdraw your written candidate statement by the official deadline.

During the nomination period, the most current version of the Candidate’s Guide posted on the Registrar of Voters’ website found under the “Candidates & Measures” page. You may also contact the Candidate Services Division for current fees and payment information. 

The general candidate filing period will end on the 88th day prior to the scheduled election. The office of the Registrar of Voters remains open until 5:00 PM on the 88th day. All interested candidates who file with the Registrar of Voters must meet this deadline. If you are seeking election to an office where the Registrar of Voters is NOT the filing official, such as the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District or for a city within the County, you should contact that filing official to confirm their normal business hours.

Yes.  If an eligible incumbent (current officeholder) does not file nomination papers, or files papers and for some reason does not qualify for nomination (does not have enough qualified signatures on their nomination petition, for example), the filing period extends for five (5) calendar days after the initial deadline. This extended period includes weekends, although the Registrar of Voters is generally closed. An extension period may also apply to the Declaration of Intention that is required by candidates seeking the office of a county Superior Court Judge. The contest extension list will be published on the Registrar of Voters website for public information.  

If the current officeholder (incumbent) is termed out and prohibited from seeking their same office, this filing period does NOT get extended and ALL interested candidates must complete the nomination process by the deadline set at 88-days prior to the election.

A written candidate statement for local candidates may include up to 200 words, however, the local agency (city, school district, etc.) may authorize a statement with up to 400 words. See Elections Code Section 13307 for more information. Candidates seeking office as a representative in congress may submit a statement containing up to 250 words, under Elections Code Section 13307.5.

Prior to each election, the Candidate Services Division prepares a detailed Candidate’s Guide that includes information about the word limit and cost for a written candidate statement for each local agency with open seats on the ballot.

No, unfortunately not. Once you file your statement, it cannot be changed unless the statement or part of it is challenged in court.

Yes. A candidate may withdraw their statement so it will not be printed in the County Voter Information Guide (CVIG). The statement can be withdrawn at any time during the nomination period, but the legal deadline is at 5:00 p.m. on the next working day after the close of the nomination period. If a candidate statement is withdrawn, a new statement cannot be filed. 

California Elections Code Section 13107 and 13107.5 set the rules for how each person can prepare their ballot designation to appear under their name on the ballot. The California Code of Regulations also contains provisions that guide acceptable ballot designations and designations that would not be approved under law. All candidates must submit a Ballot Designation Worksheet and provide supporting information and names and telephone numbers of people who can verify the chosen ballot designation so that it can be confirmed. The Ballot Designation Worksheet also has an area for the candidate to provide an alternate designation that can be used, if their first choice is not approved. The Candidate Services Division prepares a detailed guide for candidates ahead of each nomination period that will help explain this information in more detail and includes samples of both acceptable and unacceptable ballot designations.

In general, there are five different ballot designation categories. A candidate may submit their statement under one of these categories:

  1. The full title of the elective office that the candidate holds at the time of filing the nomination papers and that the candidate was elected to by a vote of the people. If the candidate is seeking a judicial office, they must include words that designate the city, county, district, state or federal office they hold at the time they file their nomination papers.
  2. The word “incumbent” if the candidate is seeking the same office they currently hold at the time of filing the nomination papers.
  3. No more than three (3) word describing the current principal professions, vocations or occupations the candidate holds at the time of filing the nomination papers, or that the candidate held within the immediate year preceding. If the candidate is seeking a judicial office and is a member of the State Bar currently employed by a city, county, district, state or the United States, they must include the name of the actual job title and city or county location in their designation. Judicial candidates may also use, “Attorney,” “Attorney at Law,” “Lawyer,” or “Counselor at Law.”
  4. The words, “appointed incumbent,” if the candidate was appointed to the same office they are seeking or, if the candidate is seeking a different office, the word, “appointed” and the title of the office.
  5. The words, “community volunteer,” if that constitutes the candidate’s principal profession, vocation, or occupation and they have no other principal profession, vocation or occupation they currently hold. Further, the term “community volunteer,” means a person who engages in an activity or performs a service for or on behalf of, and without profiting monetarily from one of the following: a charitable, religious or educational organization registered as a 501(c)(3), a governmental agency, or an educational institution.

Candidates describing more than one principal professions, vocations, or occupations under the third category listed above, must still follow the three (3) word limit and should separate their designation with a “/” mark. Acronyms and some hyphenated words and geographical names are considered one word.

There may be different filing requirements, forms and deadlines based upon the office you seek.

If you are seeking election to a federal office, such as United States Senate or Representative in Congress, you should contact the Federal Election Commission for the latest forms and requirements.



If you are seeking election to any other office in California, whether it is a state, county, city, school or special district position, please contact the Fair Political Practices Commission for the latest campaign finance forms and regulations. By visiting their website, you can learn about the laws that apply to you, find information on new regulations, access all forms, and find a workshop or request individual advice.


Advice Line: (866) ASK-FPPC [866-275-3772]

General Telephone: (916) 322-5660

Email: [email protected]

However, it is important to inquire with your local filing officer if there are any additional rules or requirements you may have to meet during your campaign. The Candidate Services Division is the local filing officer for all county offices, as well as school board and special district positions. The City Clerk is the local filing officer for their respective city offices.

The County of Santa Clara has enacted an ordinance requiring all committees to electronically file campaign statement forms. When you submit your initial committee forms, the Candidate Services Division will contact you with information on how to log in and file electronically.

There may be different requirements based upon the office you seek. Local jurisdictions may enact their own ordinance relating to campaign contribution and spending limits that are stricter than the Political Reform Act. Please contact your filing officer. The FPPC has a list of local jurisdictions (cities, counties and special districts) in California that have submitted their local campaign contribution ordinances to the FPPC. This list may not be fully inclusive.

The County of Santa Clara does have campaign contribution limits and voluntary expenditure ceilings for candidates seeking election to the office of Board of Supervisors, District Attorney, County Sherriff and County Assessor. Please contact the Candidate Services Division for further information and to obtain and file a form. The 501 and the Voluntary Expenditure Limit Logs are published on the County of Santa Clara Registrar of Voters webpage for public information. 

Also, candidates seeking statewide, state senate or state assembly positions who wish to include a 250-word candidate’s statement of qualifications either in the state’s or county’s printed voter information guide must agree to a voluntary campaign expenditure limit in order to do so. This is Form 501 and is available on the Fair Political Practices Commission’s (FPPC) website.

You can find more information under the drop-down menu for “Candidates & Measures” on our homepage where you can access the latest materials and information for upcoming elections, candidates and local ballot measures, campaign finance requirements, a list of current officeholders, precinct maps and other helpful information and guides the Candidate Services Division has produced.

If you have additional questions or are ready to run for office, contacting the Candidate Services Division (CSD) is easy.

Call CSD: (408) 299-8639

Email CSD: [email protected]