Columbia city council candidates can file to run this week

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COLUMBIA — Tuesday marks the first day candidates can file a petition to run for Ward 1 or Ward 5 Columbia City Council seats.

Candidates have to get 50 or more signatures of support from residents in their ward. Filing runs through Jan. 14, 2020.

Ward 2 councilman Mike Trapp said there are several advantages to filing first.

“The most serious candidates are going to be filing within the opening days of filing,” Trapp said. “That’s a way to demonstrate to the community that you’re serious and you’re taking your responsibilities as candidate seriously, which means you’ll take your responsibilities as a council member seriously."                             

Some candidates will line up hours before filing day to be the first candidate through the city clerk's door, according to Trapp.

Candidates who file first are listed first on the ballot. Trapp said this is an advantage because there's a tendency for low-informed voters to choose the first name of the ballot when unsure which way to vote.

“It’s unfortunate that some people are going to flip the voting lever based on the first name they get to, but that’s a real phenomenon,” he said.

Filing early can also lessen the competition, Trapp said. If potential candidates know an incumbent is running, they may feel less inclined to run.

Trapp said he also hopes to see more diversity in the candidate pool. He said it takes people of all walks of life—varying in income groups, race and gender—to make a good city council.

Columbia City Council has six seats. Of those seats, one member is black and one member is a woman.

“We’re a very diverse city, and I think the more that the city council looks like the people that is serves the better off that is, the better off our governance we have.”

Clyde Ruffin, the current Ward 1 city council member and only person of color on the council, will not be running for re-election.

City council elections are staggered, which is why only Ward 1 and Ward 5 are up for election.

The election will be held on April 7, 2020.