To win a local election, first you have to get on the ballot.

To do that, called qualifying, you can cut a check — 6 percent of the annual salary of the position — or collect a number of signed petitions equaling 1 percent of registered voters from the public. That’s usually done by going door-to-door or setting up in a busy public place and collecting signatures.

But that process doesn’t mesh with the CDC social distancing guidelines we’ve been using for weeks to try to halt COVID-19 in its tracks. It is possible to get the signatures by mail — send the petitions out with a stamped return envelope and hope they come back. This year, in light of the pandemic, Secretary of State Laurel Lee has made it possible for candidates to collect signatures via email or digital copy, print them out and deliver to the Supervisor of Elections.

Marcus Marrero is running for the district 3 County Commission seat as a registered Libertarian. He’ll have to assemble 475 petitions to qualify. Asserting the standard is not feasible right now because it can’t be done in person, he petitioned Gov. Ron DeSantis to suspend those “arbitrary requirements” for this election cycle, and that the virus “threatens to derail the campaigns of thousands of local leaders taking a chance at the local office.”

But state officials have kept the petition process in place, despite current circumstances, noting, “Due to the immediate and evolving nature of the state of emergency, regular rulemaking is too lengthy in both adoption and effect.”

The petition deadline for local races is May 11 at noon, and qualifying must be complete by June 12 at noon (county judges must qualify by April 24). If he gets on the ballot, he wouldn’t run in the Aug. 18 primary (unless another Libertarian joins the race), and would run in the Nov. 3 general election.

“Through direct mail I’ve gotten exactly three back,” Marrero said. “So then you look at paying the fee, for my race that’s $5,000, which is money I wouldn’t be spending in the campaign. Grass roots candidates won’t be able to get on the ballot because of the bureaucratic process. Campaigns with that kind of messaging won’t be able to compete, and there will be elections that will be bought.”