Running for political office is a delicate balance between aggressively courting voters and keeping your campaign under tight control. These days, it’s all too easy to make little mistakes that quickly derail your entire campaign.

The good news is: most of these mistakes are easily avoidable. By being attentive to the growth of your campaign and closely following the rules, you can ease your way to Election Day without problem.

Here are some of the most common mistakes that political campaigns make and how to avoid them.

1) Missed Ballot Access Deadlines

You’d be surprised at how often aspiring candidates miss out on the election entirely, simply because they didn’t file in time to get on the ballot. This is one of the simplest mistakes you can avoid. For some positions, you may need to collect hundreds or thousands of signatures from voters to get on the ballot – often within a small window of time. Be sure you’ve done the proper planning and checked all requirements well in advance.

2) Failure to Obey Election Laws

A failure to obey election laws, on a local, state or federal level, could disqualify you as a candidate. Not only that, you could be faced with steep fines. Even the smallest political wrongdoings could backfire if your opponent decides to use those errors against you. This is why it’s so important to study all applicable campaign laws, and make sure your campaign staff and volunteers understand them just as well.

3) Mishandling Donations

When you’re dealing with other people’s money, you have to be very careful. From the security issues associated with collecting donations on your website to reporting donations to the government, you must be sure that every transaction is safe, properly tracked, reported and meets eligibility requirements. A seemingly small error here could cost you the entire election.

4) Gaffes & Personal Troubles

Oops! You got caught doing something illegal? Your embarrassing personal matters were made public? You said something really offensive? All of these issues can derail your campaign. And there’s only so much damage control that can change voters’ minds. Keep this in mind: if you don’t think you can keep things clean, in your personal or professional life, then you might not want to run for public office.

5) Disrespecting Voters

Remember that the people voting for you are your closest allies. If you make any remark that discredits or disrespects a single voter or demographic, then you can say goodbye to your election hopes. Often, such remarks are not intended to offend anyone, but they are made when a political candidate isn’t being careful about what they’re saying.

6) Staff / Volunteer Mistakes

Make sure everyone on your team is on the same page: not just your paid staff, but also your volunteers. Any misstep by a campaign worker will reflect badly on your whole campaign and could hurt your election odds, regardless of how “perfect” your own actions have been.

Suggested Reading
Top 7 First-Time Candidate Mistakes
Ruining the Campaign: a Compilation of Mistakes
Worst Political Mistakes (2010)

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