Running for City Office Primary Elections Qualifications for City Office and Filing Petitions Citizen-initiated Petitions FAQs Campaign Finance
City elections are held in the City of Ann Arbor every even year. Elections are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in August (Primary) and November (General). Special elections are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May as needed. The City Clerk is the city's chief elections officer and is responsible for the administration of all city elections. One councilmember from each of the city's five wards is elected each even year in November for a four-year staggered term. The mayor is elected in the even-year mid-term elections in November. All are four-year terms.
Running for City Office
Municipal elections in the City of Ann Arbor are open and PARTISAN. Candidates' political party affiliations are listed on the ballot. However, it is not necessary to declare political party preference in order to vote in a primary election in the City of Ann Arbor. To vote in any city election, you must be a qualified voter in the State of Michigan and the City of Ann Arbor.
Pursuant to City Charter (13.4), City Primary elections for mayor and City Council are held only if necessary. If "petitions have been filed for no more than one candidate for the office from each political party nominating candidates therefor, no primary election shall be held respective to that office."
The filing deadline to run as a partisan City Council candidate in 2020 is April 21, 2020, at 4 p.m. Those candidates who wish to run without party affiliation (independent) have until July 16, 2020 at 4 p.m. to file petitions for the November General Election.
Qualifications for City Office and Filing Petitions
The Ann Arbor City Charter requires that candidates for mayor and City Council receive nominating petitions from the City Clerk. Section 13.8 b states that the Clerk must enter the name of the person on whose behalf the petition is to be circulated and the name of the office for which the person is a candidate. Therefore, no blank petition sheets will be provided. Anyone seeking petitions must inform the City Clerk of the name of the candidate. Another person can obtain nominating petitions on behalf of a candidate as long as that information is provided.
Nominating petitions for mayor must contain a minimum of 250 signatures. No more than 350 signatures will be accepted. Candidates for mayor must have a minimum of 50 signatures from each of the city's five wards. Only registered and qualified electors of the City of Ann Arbor can sign petitions for mayor.
Nominating petitions for City Council must contain a minimum of 100 signatures. No more than 200 signatures will be accepted. Only registered and qualified electors of the City of Ann Arbor and the ward in which the candidate is running can sign petitions for City Council.
Candidates without political party affiliation, circulating qualifying petitions, may only collect signatures within 180 days prior to filing.
Pursuant to Section 12.2 of the Ann Arbor City Charter, a person is eligible to hold an elected City office if the person on the date of filing petitions for election is a registered elector of the City and in the case of Council Member, of the ward from which elected.
A packet of information and nominating and/or qualifying (no party affiliation) petition forms can be picked up in person at the City Clerk's Office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays. Please call the City Clerk at 734.794.6140 for more information.
Citizen-initiated Petitions Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are Citizen-Initiated City Charter Amendments and Ordinance Initiatives?
A: Amendments or Ordinances proposed by members of the public via a citizen-circulated petition for signatures and submitted to the City Clerk for certification and placement on the ballot. Qualifying petitions appear on the ballot for voter approval in either a Primary or General Election.
Q: Do organizers have to create their own petitions?
A: No. The City Clerk's Office has blank petition forms available for circulation; organizers may also create their own sheets, in compliance with State guidelines for petition forms. If requested by the petition sponsor, a courtesy technical review as to form may be provided by the City Attorney's Office prior to circulation. This is recommended, but not required. The type size, the substance of the proposal that appears on the petition; the proposal summary that appears on the signature side of the petition, and the manner in which the proposal language is affixed to the petition are not subject to or part of such a technical review and are solely the responsibility of the petition sponsor. Petition sponsors are encouraged to seek legal counsel with respect to the initiative petition drive and Michigan election law requirements.
For additional information on petition format, please review the Michigan Secretary of State bulletin on filing statewide petitions (PDF). The format and style requirements for local petitions are the same.
Q: Are there specific rules regarding who may sign a petition?
A: Yes. All signers must be registered voters in the City of Ann Arbor at the time of signing.
Q: Are there rules for circulators?
A: Yes. Circulators must ensure that all five columns are completed by each petition signer and they must witness each signature. Petition sheets may not be left unattended. A circulator or a petition signer cannot sign for another person. The circulator must complete the circulator's certificate after collecting signatures. A certificate that is signed and dated prior to circulation is invalid.
Q: How do I file a citizen-initiated Charter Amendment or Ordinance Initiative?
A: Petitions for local issues within the City of Ann Arbor (e.g. Charter amendment or City ordinance initiative) are filed in-person with the City Clerk at Larcom City Hall, 301 E. Huron Street, 2nd Floor. Due to the time required to file and accept citizen-initiated petitions, a scheduled appointment to file is requested, but not required. Please call 734-794-6140 or email email@example.com to arrange a filing time.
Q: What are the requirements to file a Citizen-Initiated City Charter Amendment?
A: At the time of filing, the petition must appear on its face to meet the number of required signatures (partial or piece-meal filings will not be accepted) and comply with State guidelines. The total number of signatures collected must equal or exceed 5 percent of registered voters in the City at the time petitions are filed. Current voter registration numbers can be obtained by contacting the City Clerk's Office during business hours or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. At the time of filing, petition sheets will be counted and numbered and a cursory review of each sheet will take place in front of the petition submitter to determine that the filing appears to be complete. A receipt will be provided.
Q: Where are signatures checked?
A: Signatures are checked and recorded electronically by the City Clerk's Office via the State of Michigan's QVF (Qualified Voter File) system. In the case of duplicate signatures, (i.e. multiple signatures by the same registered voter) both the original signature and all duplicates will be discarded.
Q: How long are Charter Amendment signatures valid once collected?
A: Signatures dated more than one year prior to the filing of a Charter amendment petition will not be counted.
Q: When do Citizen-Initiated City Charter Amendments and Citizen-Initiated Ordinances petitions need to be submitted before appearing on the ballot?
A: In accordance with Michigan Election Law, the filing deadlines are two weeks prior to the 12th Tuesday of the Primary or General Election (MCL 168.646a). Petitions can be submitted anytime up to the final deadline. However, filing on the legal deadline may not allow enough time for certification for the upcoming election! (See below.)
Q: How long does it take to certify a Citizen-Initiated Petition?
A: By law, the City Clerk has up to 45 days to certify a citizen-initiated petition. To ensure that the initiative will appear on the next available election date, the City Clerk's Office recommends that petitions be turned in at least 45 days in advance of the final certification deadline.
Q: Will supplemental filings be accepted if additional signatures are determined to be needed after the filing is checked against the QVF?
A: Supplemental signatures will be accepted, if necessary, up to the final filing deadline for the upcoming election. However, no supplemental signature(s) will be accepted if it is dated more than 1 year after the first qualifying signature in the original filing (i.e. no rolling off old signatures to add new ones). In addition, supplemental petitions must meet the same State guidelines as the original filing.
Q: How quickly will supplemental filings be checked?
A: The City Clerk's Office will make best efforts to check supplemental filings within the original 45-day certification period, and as quickly as possible, but depending on the number of supplements needed and the number of additional signatures filed, additional time may be required. It is recommended that a significant buffer be submitted at the time of the original filing to prevent the need for supplemental signatures late in the process.
Q: What are the signature requirements for Citizen-Initiated Ordinances?
A: 20 percent of the votes cast for the Office of Mayor in the last Mayoral Election.
Important Dates and Timelines
Certification to the County Clerk: 12th Tuesday before Election Day.
Legal Filing Deadline for Citizen-initiated petition: 2 weeks prior to 12th Tuesday.
Requested Filing Deadline to Ensure Certification for UPCOMING Election: 45 days prior to 12th Tuesday before Election Day.
Candidates and persons acting on their behalf are reminded that they are subject to provisions of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act. This law requires filing of various financial reports with the Washtenaw County Clerk. Candidates are advised to check with the Washtenaw County Clerk regarding required reporting and deadlines.
Washtenaw County Clerk Elections Web Page