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In The Public Interest: Who Runs For Office And What To Do If You’re Interested

Ballot Box

This week on "In The Public Interest," our bi-weekly conversation with the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor area, 89.1 WEMU’s Lisa Barry talks with Rena Basch about what goes in to running for public office especially on the local level.

About the Guest – Rena Basch

Rena Basch
Credit Lisa Barry / 89.1 WEMU
89.1 WEMU
Ann Arbor Township Clerk Rena Basch

Rena Basch ran for Ann Arbor Charter Township Clerk in 2004, and is now in her 4th term, in this part-time elected position.  She has a BS in Materials Engineering from Cornell University and a PhD from Northwestern University.  After working in automotive research and development for 15 years, she owned and operated her own local food processing business for 10 years.  Basch has been a committed volunteer to civic and nonprofit organizations, serving on the Township Planning Commission, Township Board, local Municipal Clerks’ Association, and several nonprofit boards.  Her work as an elections administrator inspired her commitment to voters’ rights, and so for the last 2 years, she has volunteered with Voters Not Politicians to enact redistricting reform, and with the League of Women Voters focusing on voter registration, primarily training League volunteers to register new voters.

Why Run for Local Public Office?

  • If you see something that needs work, see something that you’d like to fix.
  • If you have skills and talents that your community needs.
  • If you want to serve and give back. 
  • Some people run because they are unhappy with an incumbent/the current office-holder, or frustrated by a governmental unit’s performance or the policies or the priorities.  Channel that anger and frustration into positive, good works!!  
  • We need more candidates, more people involved, more diverse people involved.

How to Prepare to Run

  • Understand what is happening, attend meetings, read minutes.
  • Show up and listen, read the reports.
  • Volunteering for a commission or committee is also a great way to get involved in the community and to understand how the government unit works.  There are opportunities at the city or township or county level.  Easy to find online.

Mechanics of Running

  • Must be a registered voter.
  • A whole lot of information available at the Secretary of State’s website information for candidates.  (Booklet - “PREPARING, CIRCULATING AND FILING PETITIONS FOR PUBLIC OFFICE”)
  • The County website also has info for candidates
  • Nominating petition – get the correct version – e.g. “City/Township Partisan Nominating Petition” if it’s a partisan race, and you are a member of a party. If you want to run as an independent, you would use “City/Township Qualifying Petition” form.  Sounds confusing, but it is laid out clearly online.  Collect the required number of signatures from registered voters; the number of signatures required is based on the population.  There’s a chart on the SOS website. E.g. Ann Arbor Township has a population under 10,000 so on my nominating petition I needed a minimum of 3 signatures (yes only 3!) and the maximum is 10.  Pittsfield Twp has about 38,000 residents, so their candidates have to collect a minimum of 50 signatures.
  • Certain offices – can pay a fee instead of filing a nominating petition. 
  • Affidavit of identity – 1 page form
  • Once you’ve turned in these forms, you are now a candidate, and have 10 days to form a “Candidate Committee” for campaign finance purposes.  Best source of forms and instructions is at the Washtenaw County webpage (mentioned above.)  Don't be intimidated; the information you need is all available either online or at the clerks' offices.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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