We often say, when it comes to elections, more candidates are better.

What we should have added: Running for office is a complicated affair, with laws governing everything from how to get on the ballot to reporting campaign contributions.

And it's a candidate's responsibility to understand and comply with these laws.

Failure to follow the rules to the letter can result in a prospective candidate not getting on the ballot, a candidate getting kicked off the ballot, or a candidate getting fined by the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Five local candidates who ran in the 2012 primary election found this out the hard way, racking up anywhere from $100 to nearly $900 in fines since Feb. 11 for failing to file campaign finance reports or other paperwork.

Ron Ruman, a spokesman for Department of State, said about 10 percent of the 1,400 statewide candidates last year hadn't filed the required reports -- mistakes he attributed in part to unfamiliarity with Pennsylvania election law.

"A lot (of them) lost in the primary and it might've been their first foray (into politics) and they might not have realized they had to do this," he said. "Ignorance of the law is no excuse. When you run for office, you need to see what you need to do."

The rules aren't intended to make it difficult for first-time candidates, although it might very well seem that way to them. The laws were made to protect the integrity of our elections.


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Still, it's easy for a newcomer to get tripped up, maybe throw in the towel or vow never to get involved in politics again.

That's unfortunate, especially since that person might be the one with exactly the values, perspective and solutions voters want.

Would-be candidates should take advantage of seminars like the two Toss Your Hat in the Ring programs offered by Penn State Extension earlier this month.

They focused on the roles and responsibilities for a township supervisor, a borough council member and a school board director, as well as how to run for office and file petitions.

The Republican and Democratic committees of York County offer similar programs throughout the year for prospective candidates, and the Department of State's website offers a wealth of information about running for office.

Tuesday is the first date to circulate and file nominating petitions for the May primary election, when we'll select nominees for school boards all the way up to county row offices -- positions that will affect our lives almost every day.

The more candidates, the better the odds voters will find the perfect fit; yet if history is any indication, some races will have just one candidate or none at all.

So if you're considering a run, by all means, jump in.

But make sure you understand what you're jumping into.