Alright, although this seems like a node written as a joke, it's in fact a serious source of information on how to run for office in the 2004 election. The steps?

0. Make sure you qualify. As ariels pointed out, you need to meet all relevant age limits. For most offices, it's 18. For the Senate, it's 30. For the President, it's 35. If running in a locality, you usually must live there. Many states require you to have lived there for a while, too, so be sure to investigate. Federal offices often have citizenship requirements above five years (nine years for the Senate, forever for the President.)

1. Choose your enrollment. In America, you have a few options. You can be a Republican or Democrat, in which case you will be referred to as a "party candidate" for the rest of this writeup. You can be a Green Party runner or a Libertarian, in which case you will be referred to as a "minor party candidate". You can also run under the banner of any other small party, in which case you will be referred to as an "independent candidate" -- this also applies to those running without a party, as I am.

Running as a major party candidate gives you credibility, but you have to win the primaries. Running as a minor candidate is a lot easier, but your chances, frankly, suck. America is a two-party system and has little room for the little guy. But, take your pick.

2. Get nominated. In order to be nominated for any office, you have to collect signatures. If you are running for a federal office, you have to get them in states across the country. If you are running for a state or local office, you have to get them in the appropriate consituent area. Some examples, taken from the Massachusetts Department of Elections:

  • Representative in General Court (legislature): 150 signatures
  • Senator in General Court: 250 signatures
  • Governor: 10,000 signatures
  • President: Also 10,000 signatures
If you are a party or minor party candidate, these signatures must all be obtained from voters who are registered as members of your party. If not, go nuts. Independent candidates may get signatures from any registered voter that they ask, whether Democrat, Republican, or gun-totin' Anarchist.

It is advisable to get more signatures than are required; many will probably not be certified.

3. File your nomination. Have a chat with the local/state/federal Ethics Comission, then file your now-certified nomination papers and Ethics Comission receipt with the Secretary of whatever locality you're running in. (i.e., Secretary of State, Secretary of the Commonwealth). Be sure to confirm the results so that you can deal with any setbacks.

In federal elections and most state elections (check your local laws carefully), financial reports must be filed (in federal elections, file with the Federal Elections Comission) with complete copies of your records of expenses, income, and donations during the campaign. The slightest slip-up can get you disqualified, so be extremely careful.

4. Campaign, campaign, campaign. This is the fun part. Make speeches. Hold rallies. Schedule debates. Distinguish yourself from your distinguished opponents. This section is practically another writeup in itself (and it probably will be). Just make sure that you build public awareness and convince people that you're going to make a difference.

5. Election Day. Don't forget to vote. This is the critical part of your campaign. Stand within a few hundred feet of the polling place (be careful, too close is prohibited in most states) and shake hands, smile, pose for pictures. Above all, do not seem to be begging for votes. Just establish a friendly presence and have a crowd of supporters.

Candidates who campaign too aggressively on Election Day lose. Be friendly before being assertive. Give out cookies. Bake a pie. Don't seem like a politician who's only pretending to care about people; make it seem like you actually do care about people.

6. Victory or loss. If you lose, too bad. Make a concession speech if the office you're running for is significant enough to merit it. Call your opponent with your congratulations and say nice things about them to the reporters. If you're planning to beat them next time, it's important to make sure that you look classy.

If you win, congratulations! Make your acceptance speech, no matter how stupid your office is. There will always be reporters there for the winner, if only for a few minutes. Make them count.

Afterwards, go back to the office of the Secretary and file your Certificate of Election. You are now officially a {Whatever}-Elect, with all the ranks and priviliges provided. Come the start of the next term, you will be in office. Try to show up early.