Online app makes getting on Cook County ballot easier

By Russell Boniface | Dec 30, 2016

CHICAGO – Cook County residents seeking elected office can now apply online using a new application to simplify the process of getting information and generating candidate paperwork packets.

Launched in October, the Running for Office (RFO) Starter Kit app, created and designed by the Cook County Clerk’s office, allows prospective candidates to view the elected offices they are eligible for and gather necessary information and documentation to complete and submit the paperwork needed for running for office, a press release states. The RFO app is designed to save money, time, and any mistakes that can result in prospective candidates being taken off the ballot.

The RFO app was launched in October. As of the beginning of December, 293 prospective candidates have used it to create their candidate packets for the April 4, 2017, suburban Cook County’s consolidated general election. According to the Cook County Clerk’s office, an average of six prospective candidates per day have used the RFO to generate candidate packets between Nov. 9 and Dec. 5. The deadline for the consolidated election was Dec. 19.

The app is free to use. It allows users to enter their name, birth dates and address in order to view available offices, filing dates and signature requirements. The RFO displays can also generate a candidate packet, which includes the statement of candidacy, loyalty oath and petition for nomination forms that are prepopulated with the user’s information.

Abdelnasser Rashid, deputy chief of staff for Clerk David Orr, told the Cook County Record that the RFO app makes the application process easier for candidates.

“In many cases the process was harder and more complicated than it should have been,” he said. “The rules were sometimes cumbersome and difficult to understand.”

Rashid said that the most useful service the RFO app provides is to give candidates the information they need within minutes.

“The RFO provides useful information that the clerk’s office maintains, like election results, maps, voter registration data and agency tax documents,” said Rashid.

The RFO app gives detailed instructions to help candidates avoid common pitfalls. For example, the RFO app will enable users to file a statement of economic interest.

 “That is the proper process,” said Rashid. “That could be confusing to potential candidates.”

The RFO app will also help candidates properly number their petition sheets.

The RFO app was available for offices within seven Cook County districts this year. According to the data, 75 percent of those who have filed using the RFO app plan to run for school boards, while another 45 percent are potential park district board candidates, the clerk's office reported in a press release. Meanwhile, 9 percent used the RFO app to assemble paperwork for library districts. There are two fire protection district candidates.

Rashid said that data will be analyzed after the filing period has ended to see if there has been an increase in candidate filings as a result of this app.

“Candidates will still need to collect signatures on their own and work to convince voters that they are worth voting for,” Rashid said. “But this online application at least makes getting on the ballot a little easier.”

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