York candidates find varied ways to get petitions signed

Greg Gross
From left, Butch Potter, of York Township, Pennsylvania State Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill and York Township Commissioner Bob Kessler are shown at a table where numerous petitions await signatures during a petition signing event, held by Phillips-Hill, at Mama's Pizza in Loganville, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016.

Each year, political candidates go through the same — often arduous, they say — task of collecting signatures in order to get on the ballot.

This year, candidates fanned out across Pennsylvania and state districts to ask registered voters for their support by signing nomination petitions.

That means nights and weekends spent hitting the pavement and knocking on doors in the often bitter-cold. Throw in a snowstorm or two and winter's early sunset and the task for major party candidates to collect signatures can seem daunting.

"You're out in the dark trying to get signatures and the darkness makes it less likely for people to open their doors," said state Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, who is standing for re-election in the 94th House District.


The petition-circulating season began in late January and candidates must file their petitions no later than Tuesday. In York County, all state House seats, the 31st state Senate District, statewide offices of auditor general, attorney general and treasurer, and national offices of president and a senate seat held by Republican Pat Toomey, will appear on the primary ballot.

York's political parties gear up for primary

Changes: Saylor first ran for the House in 1992, when doing door-to-door was the standard way of getting signatures, and since then, how candidates go about collecting signatures has changed.

Some candidates, as well as York County's Democratic and Republicans parties, get supporters to come to them instead of solely seeking them out.

Both parties have held signing parties for their respective candidates and state Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, has held a series of her own similar events.

"It's definitely evolved," she said of circulating petitions.

State Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township

Phillips-Hill held three signature signing events. Supporters were invited to come to sign her petition and supporters who collected signatures through other means had petitions notarized. She also collects signatures the old-fashioned way but hosting the signing events has made the process easier, she said.

"The hardest thing is: Will the door open? Will they open the door for a stranger?" Phillips-Hill said of going door-to-door.

Some supporters have also turned to social media in search of signatures. In those cases, someone logs onto Facebook, posts that he or she has a petition for a candidate and if someone wants to sign it, arraignments are made to meet up.

Representative Kristin Phillips-Hill holds a petition signing event at Mama's Pizza in Loganville, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016.

Old school: Though the age of social media and signing parties has made it easier for candidates to meet their signature requirements, some candidates prefer to stick with the old fashioned method of knocking on doors.

Saylor said he contemplated hosting a signing party, adding it's a pretty good idea, but opted to meet constituents in their neighborhoods, at their homes.

Republican Kraig Bruder, who's running for the 92nd House District, also prefers knocking on doors because he belives it shows voters he is working hard to win a campaign.

Kraig Bruder is a Republican running in the 92nd state House District.

"I think the meet-and-greets and the petition parties are the low-hanging fruit. It's important to get out and meet the people," he said. "Not only am I getting their signatures, I'm also getting their votes."

Bruder said he'd been out each weekend and most nights after work hunting for signatures. The rural nature of the  92nd District, which spans the northern portion of York County from Newberry Township, where Bruder lives, to Washington Township, has posed challenges because homes are spread out, distance-wise.

Challenger vs. incumbent: Bruder's bid for the House is also his first election. Some voters who open the door know little or nothing about him.

"One of the first things I tell them is 'I'm not selling anything,'" he said.

Saylor, on the other hand, has the advantage of name recognition.

"It's easier for me to get a signature. But it takes a lot longer because people want to talk about the issues," he said.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.