Ballot access

In the United States, ballot access refers to the rules and procedures regulating the conditions under which a candidate, political party, or ballot measure is entitled to appear on voters' ballots.[1] As the nation's election process is decentralized by Article I, Section 4, of the United States Constitution, ballot access laws are established and enforced by the states.[2] As a result, ballot access processes may vary from one state to another. State access requirements for candidates generally pertain to personal qualities of a candidate, such as: minimum age, residency, citizenship, and being a qualified voter. Additionally, many states require prospective candidates to collect a specified number of qualified voters' signatures on petitions of support and mandate the payment of filing fees before granting access; ballot measures are similarly regulated (as is the wording and format of petitions as well). Each state also regulates how political parties qualify for automatic ballot access, and how those minor parties that do not can. Fundamental to democracy, topics related to ballot access are the subject of considerable debate in the United States.


In order to get on the ballot, a candidate, political party, or ballot measure must meet a variety of requirements. The Elections Clause in Article I of the Constitution states that "the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof." Consequently, each state may design its own unique criteria for ballot access.[2] The United States is one of the very few nations that does not have uniform federal ballot access laws.[3]

The primary argument put forward by States for restricting ballot access has been the presumption that setting ballot access criteria too low would result in numerous candidates on the ballot, splitting the votes of similar minded voters. Example: With plurality voting, also known as First past the post, the candidate with the most votes wins, even if the candidate does not have a majority of the votes. Suppose 55% Belief A and 45% Belief B vote in a district. If two candidates appeal to A, but only one appeals to B, the votes of A could split between the two A candidates, say 25% vote for one and 30% for the other, giving the B candidate the office although 55% preferred to see an A candidate in the office. However, proponents of ballot access reform say that reasonably easy access to the ballot does not lead to a glut of candidates, even where many candidates do appear on the ballot. The 1880s reform movement that led to officially designed secret ballots, such as the Australian ballot, had some salutary effects, but it also gave the government control over who could be on the ballot. As historian Peter Argersinger has pointed out, the reform that empowered officials to regulate access onto the ballot, also carried the danger that this power would be abused by officialdom and that legislatures controlled by established political parties, would enact restrictive ballot access laws to ensure re-election of their party's candidates.

Perhaps the most prominent advocate of the 1880s ballot reform movement, John Henry Wigmore, suggested that "ten signatures" might be an appropriate requirement for nomination to the official ballot for a legislative office. In the 20th century, ballot access laws imposing signature requirements far more restrictive than Wigmore had envisioned were enacted by many state legislatures; in many cases, the two major parties wrote the laws such that the burdens created by these new ballot access requirements (usually in the form of difficult signature-gathering nominating petition drives) fell on alternative candidates, but not on major party candidates.[4] Proponents of more open ballot access argue that restricting ballot access has the effect of unjustly restricting the choices available to voters, and typically disadvantages third party candidates and other candidates who are not affiliated with the established parties.

President George H. W. Bush signed the Copenhagen Document of the Helsinki Accords that states in part:

(7.5) – respect the right of citizens to seek political or public office, individually or as representatives of political parties or organizations, without discrimination;

(7.6) – respect the right of individuals and groups to establish, in full freedom, their own political parties or other political organizations and provide such political parties and organizations with the necessary legal guarantees to enable them to compete with each other on a basis of equal treatment before the law and by the authorities;...

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has criticized the United States for its ballot access laws. In 1996, United States delegates responded to the criticism by saying that unfair ballot access "could be remedied through existing appeal and regulatory structures and did not represent a breach of the Copenhagen commitments."[5] The OSCE published a report on the 2004 United States election, which among other things, noted restrictive ballot access laws.[6]

Ballot access laws by state

Ballot access laws in the United States vary widely from state to state:

  • Alabama: Major party candidates are nominated by the state primary process. Independent candidates are granted ballot access through a petition process and minor political party candidates are nominated by convention along with a petition process; one must collect 3% of the total votes cast in the last election for the specific race or 3% of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election for statewide ballot access. The figure for 2016 and 2018 statewide ballot access is 35,412 valid signatures.[7][8] Be aware that the validity of signatures generally means that 20–30% more signatures will need to be collected to ensure that the goal is achieved. To retain ballot access in the following election, a party has to poll 20% in a statewide race.
Arizona Greens ballot status signature collectors 20080209
Activists of the Arizona Green Party collecting signatures for ballot status
  • Arizona: To gain ballot access, a new political party must gather signatures on a county–by–county basis, achieving over 20,000 valid signatures (i.e. from registered voters). Once this has been achieved the party must run a candidate for Governor or President who garners at least 5% of the vote to maintain ballot access for an additional two years, maintain at least 1% of registered voters registered with their party, or gather approximately the same number of signatures again every two years. The Democratic, Libertarian, and Republican parties have ballot access by voter registrations. In 2008, the Arizona Green Party gathered enough signatures to gain ballot access.[9]
  • California: Per section 5100 of the California Election Code, ballot access requires one of two conditions to be met:[10]
    • If at the last preceding gubernatorial election there was polled for any one of the party's candidates for any office voted on throughout the state, at least 2 percent of the entire vote of the state;
    • If on or before the 135th day before any primary election, it appears to the Secretary of State, as a result of examining and totaling the statement of voters and their political affiliations transmitted to him or her by the county elections officials, that voters equal in number to at least 1 percent of the entire vote of the state at the last preceding gubernatorial election have declared their intention to affiliate with that party.
  • Colorado has relatively lax ballot access requirements, but requirements differ for major and minor parties. For major party primary candidates (Democratic, Republican, and American Constitution parties are major parties for 2012 because of the votes drawn by ACP candidate Tom Tancredo in 2010), C.R.S. 1-4-801 requires statewide candidates (including US Senate) obtain 1,500 valid signatures per congressional district. US House and State legislature candidates need 1000 signatures. Candidates may also be named to ballots by a caucus, county assembly, and state or district assembly process; a candidate who draws less than 10% of an assembly is ineligible to petition on the same primary ballot. For minor party candidate, the petition requirements are eased under C.R.S 1-4-802. For US Senate, 1,000 signatures are required; for US House, 800 signatures; for State Senate, 600 signatures; and for State House, 400. Sometimes these requirements are relaxed even further based on the voting statistics of the district.[11]
  • Georgia In 2016 Georgia required a 3rd party presidential candidate to produce 7,500 signatures of registered voters to gain ballot access.[12] The 7,500 number was imposed by Federal District Court Judge Richard Story in a 2016-03-17 ruling against the state that their requirement of signatures equaling at least 1% of the total number of registered and eligible voters in the most recent presidential election was an unconstitutionally high barrier. The number would have been about 50,334. On 2016-04-13, the Georgia secretary of state appealed the decision without seeking a stay until the state legislature acts to change the requirement.[13]
  • Kentucky uses a three-tier system for ballot access, using the results of the previous presidential election as the gauge. If a party's presidential candidate achieves less than 2% of the popular vote within the state, that organization is a "political group". If the candidate receives 2% or more, but less than 20% of the popular vote in Kentucky, that organization is a "political organization". Parties whose candidate for president achieves at least 20% of the popular vote are considered "political parties". Taxpayer-funded primaries are achieved as a "political party". Automatic ballot access is obtained as a "political organization" or "political party", and these levels require only 2 signatures for a candidate to run for any partisan office. There is no mechanism for placing an entire party on the ballot in Kentucky, other than achieving "political organization" or "political party" status. Candidates of "political groups" and independent candidates must collect a minimum of between 25 and 5000 signatures to run for any particular partisan office. Filing fees apply equitably to all levels.[14] Traditionally, the state only tracked voter registration affiliation as Democratic (D), Republican (R), or Other (O). Beginning 1 January 2006, Kentucky law provides for County Clerks to track the voter registration of Constitution (C), Green (G), Libertarian (L), Reform (F), and Socialist Workers (S), as well as independent (I);[15] though a number of County Clerks have not been complying with this regulation.
  • Louisiana is one of the easiest states to get on the ballot. Anyone may obtain a spot on the ballot by either paying a qualifying fee, or submitting petition signatures. For independent candidates for President (or non-recognized parties) the fee is $500 or 5000 signatures, with at least 500 from each Congressional district. Recognized Parties simply file their slate of Electors - their access is automatic, no fee or signatures required. For statewide office, the signature requirement is the same as that for President, but the fees are $750 for Governor and $600 for all other statewide offices. District and local office fees range from $40 or 50 signatures for a small town office, to $600 or 1000 signatures for US House. All signatures for district offices must come from within that district. If the office is for a political party committee, the signatures must be from people affiliated with that party. For Presidential Preference Primaries, the fee is $750 or 1000 signatures affiliated with that party from each Congressional district.[16](pdf) Present Louisiana law only allows for Presidential Primaries if a party has more than 40,000 registered voters statewide. Currently, this only applies to the Democratic and Republican Parties. Louisiana law changed in 2004 under efforts from the Libertarian Party of Louisiana to relax rules in place at that time for recognizing political parties in the state. There are now two methods to gain official recognition. Method A allows a party to be recognized if it pays a $1000 fee AND has 1000 or more voters registered under its label. To retain recognition, it must field a candidate at least once in any four-year period in a statewide election – with no requirement on performance in the election. Statewide election slots include Presidential Elector, Governor, Senator, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Treasurer, Comm. of Insurance, and Commissioner of Agriculture. To date, the Libertarian Party and the Green Party have used this method to attain and retain official party recognition. Method B allows a party to be recognized if one of its candidates in a statewide race or for Presidential Elector achieves 5% of the vote. To retain recognition, it must repeat the 5% tally for statewide office or Presidential Elector at least once in any four-year period. To date, the Reform Party has used this method to gain and retain official party recognition. Due to their size, parties recognized by these methods are exempt from certain laws governing public elections of political committee offices and from certain financial reporting requirements until their membership reaches 5% of registered voters statewide. Recognized political parties in Louisiana are allowed to have their party name appear alongside their candidates on the ballot, and for their party to be offered as a specific choice on voter registration cards. Non-recognized parties appear as OTHER, and the party name must be written in on the registration card. Non-affiliated voters are listed as N for No Party. In the 2008 and 2010 Congressional elections, Louisiana experimented with closed primaries for House and Senate. Under this system, recognized parties participated in semi-closed primaries before the general election. Only one candidate from each party was allowed on the General Election ballot; there was no limit for OTHER or NONE. An attempt to pass a law differentiating "minor" parties similar to the rule for Presidential Primaries was defeated but made irrelevant by Louisiana reverting to its "Jungle Primary" system where all candidates, regardless of number from any party, all compete together on the same ballot. If no one achieves a majority, a general election is held as a run-off between the top two, also regardless of party affiliation.[17][18]
  • Maryland: Party certifications are done for each gubernatorial cycle (e.g. 2006–2010). If the number of registered voters to a political party is less than 1%, then 10,000 petition signatures must be gathered for that party to be considered certified. A party must be certified before voters can register under that party. A party can also be certified for a two-year term if their "top of the ticket" candidate receives more than 1% of the vote.
  • Michigan: Major party candidates for Congress, governor, state legislature, countywide offices, and township offices are chosen through a primary system. A candidate can appear on the ballot by filing petition signatures; candidates for certain offices may file a $100 filing fee in lieu of filing petition signatures. All minor-party candidates, as well as major-party candidates for certain statewide offices, are chosen by a convention. Candidates running for nonpartisan offices (including judgeships, school boards, and most city offices) can appear on the ballot via petitions, as can candidates running for partisan offices without party affiliation.
  • Minnesota: Major party candidates are nominated by the state primary process. Independent and minor political party candidates are nominated by a petition process; 2,000 signatures for a statewide election, or 500 for a state legislative election. Candidates have a two-week period to collect nominating petition signatures. Independent candidates may select a brief political party designation in lieu of independent.
  • Missouri exempts parties from needing to gather signatures if they attain 2% of the vote in a statewide election.[19]
  • New York : To be recognized, a political party must gain 50,000 votes in the most recent gubernatorial election. (There are, as of 2019, eight such parties. Three of these have primarily resorted to electoral fusion and usually only nominate candidates already on either the Democratic or Republican lines.) This allows for primary elections and allows statewide candidates to be exempted from having to petition. Any other candidate must file petitions. For statewide candidates, 15,000 signatures are required, and there must be at least 100 signatures from each of at least 1/2 of the congressional districts in the state (27 as of 2014). All state legislature and congressional candidates must file petitions regardless of party nominations, except in special elections. Village and town elections have less restrictive ballot access rules.[20]
  • North Carolina 's law pertaining to ballot access is codified in N.C.G.S Chapter 163 Elections and Election Law:[21]
    • New Political Parties: According to N.C.G.S. §163-96(a)(2)[22][23] for a New Political Party to gain access to the election ballot they must obtain signatures on a petition equal to at least 2% of the total number of votes cast for Governor in the most recent election by no later than 12:00 noon on the first day of June before the election in which the Party wishes to participate. In addition, at least 200 signatures must come from at least four separate US Congressional Districts each within the state. To qualify for the 2010 or 2012 election ballot a new political party must gather at least 85,379 signatures within approximately a 3.5 year time span, averaging at least 67 signatures every day for three and half years straight counting weekdays and holidays.[23]
    • Political Party Retention Requirement: According to N.C.G.S. §163-96(a)(1)[24] in order for a political party to remain certified for the election ballot after obtaining access to the ballot, or to remain recognized by the State of North Carolina, that party must successfully garner at least 2% of the total vote cast for Governor for its candidate. If a party's candidate for Governor fails to receive at least 2% of the vote, that party loses ballot access (N.C.G.S. §163-97[25]) and must begin the petitioning process over again, and the voter affiliation of all registered voters affiliated with that party is changed to unaffiliated (N.C.G.S. §163-97.1[26]).
    • Statewide Unaffiliated Requirements: According to N.C.G.S. §163-122(a)(1)[27] in order for an unaffiliated candidate to qualify for the election ballot for a statewide office, the candidate must obtain signatures on a petition equal to at least 2% of the total number of votes caste for Governor in the most recent election by 12:00 noon on the last Friday in June before the election in which the candidate wishes to participate. In addition, at least 200 signatures must come from at least four separate US Congressional Districts each within the state. To qualify for the 2010 or 2012 election ballot unaffiliated statewide candidates must obtain at least 85,379 signatures.
    • District Unaffiliated Requirements: According to N.C.G.S. §163-122(a)(2-3)[27] in order for an unaffiliated candidate to qualify for the election ballot for a district office, the candidate must obtain signatures on a petition equal to at least 4% of the total number of registered voters within the district that the candidate is running for election in as of January 1 of the election year in which the candidate desires to appear on the election ballot. Signatures must be turned in by 12:00 noon on the last Friday in June before the election in which the candidate wishes to participate. District candidates effectively cannot start petitioning for ballot access until after January 1 of the election year they are running for election, giving them just under half a year to obtain signatures for ballot access. To qualify for the 2010 election ballot unaffiliated US Congressional candidates are required to obtain as many as 22,544 signatures and an average of 18,719 signatures required for access to the 2010 election ballot.[28]
  • North Dakota requires 7,000 petition signatures to create a new political party and nominate a slate of candidates for office. Independent candidates need 1,000 for a statewide office or 300 for a state legislative office. The independent nominating petition process does not allow for candidates to appear on the ballot with a political party designation, in lieu of independent, except for presidential elections.[29]
  • Ohio: Late in 2006, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated Ohio's law for ballot access for new political parties in a suit brought by the Libertarian Party of Ohio.[30] After the November elections, the outgoing Secretary of State and Attorney General requested an extension to file an appeal to the US Supreme Court so that the decision to appeal could be made by the newly elected Secretary of State and Attorney General. The new Secretary of State did not appeal, but instead asserted her authority as Chief Election Officer of Ohio to issue new ballot access rules. In July 2008, a US District Court invalidated the Secretary of State's rules and placed the Libertarian Party on the ballot.[31] Three other parties subsequently sued and were placed on the ballot by the Court or by the Secretary of State.
  • Oklahoma: A party is defined either as a group that polled 10% for the office at the top of the ticket in the last election (i.e., president or governor), or that submits a petition signed by voters equal to 5% of the last vote cast for the office at the top of the ticket. An independent presidential candidate, or the presidential candidate of an unqualified party, may get on the ballot with a petition of 3% of the last presidential vote. Oklahoma is the only state in the nation in which an independent presidential candidate, or the presidential candidate of a new or previously unqualified party, needs support from more than 2% of the last vote cast to get on the ballot. An initiative was circulated in 2007 to lower the ballot access rules for political parties.
  • Pennsylvania: A new party or independent candidate may gain ballot access for one election as a "political body" by collecting petition signatures equal to 2% of the vote for the highest vote-getter in the most recent election in the jurisdiction. A political body that wins 2% of the vote obtained by the highest vote-getter statewide in the same election is recognized statewide as a "political party" for two years. A political party with a voter enrollment equal to less than 15% of the state's total partisan enrollment is classified as a "minor political party," which has automatic ballot access in special elections but must otherwise collect the same number of signatures as political bodies. Political parties not relegated to "minor" status qualify to participate in primary elections. Candidates may gain access to primary election ballots by collecting a set number of petition signatures for each office, generally significantly fewer than required for political bodies and minor political parties.
  • South Dakota: For a registered political party in a statewide election they must collect petition signatures equal to 1% of the vote for that political party in the preceding election for state governor. An independent candidate must collect petition signatures equal to 1% of the total votes for state governor, and a new political party must collect 250 petition signatures. In state legislative elections, a registered political party needs to collect 50 signatures and an independent candidate must collect 1% of the total votes cast for state governor in the preceding election in their respective district.[32]
  • Tennessee: A candidate seeking a House or Senate seat at the state or national level must gather 25 signatures from registered voters to be put on the ballot for any elected office.[33][34] Presidential candidates seeking to represent an officially recognized party must either be named as candidates by the Tennessee Secretary of State or gather 2,500 signatures from registered voters, and an independent candidate for President must gather 275 signatures and put forward a full slate of eleven candidates who have agreed to serve as electors.[35] To be recognized as a party and have its candidates listed on the ballot under that party's name, a political party must gather signatures equal to or in excess of 2.5% of the total number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election (about 45,000 signatures based on the election held in 2006).[36] A third party to be officially recognized was the American Party in 1968; none of its candidates received 5% of the statewide vote in 1970 or 1972 and it was then subject to decertification as an official party after the 1972 election. In 2012, a state court ruled that the Green Party of Tennessee and the Constitution Party of Tennessee would join the Republican and Democratic Parties on the ballot beginning with the 6 November 2012 election.
  • Texas: For a registered political party in a statewide election to gain ballot access, they must either: obtain 5% of the vote in any statewide election; or collect petition signatures equal to 1% of the total votes cast in the preceding election for governor, and must do so by January 2 of the year in which such statewide election is held. An independent candidate for any statewide office must collect petition signatures equal to 1% of the total votes cast for governor, and must do so beginning the day after primary elections are held and complete collection within 60 days thereafter (if runoff elections are held, the window is shortened to beginning the day after runoff elections are held and completed within 30 days thereafter). The petition signature cannot be from anyone who voted in either primary (including runoff), and voters cannot sign multiple petitions (they must sign a petition for one party or candidate only).[37]
  • Virginia: A candidate for any statewide or local office must be qualified to vote for as well as hold the office they are running for, must have been "a resident of the county, city or town which he offers at the time of filing", a resident of the district, if it is an election for a specific district, and a resident of Virginia for one year before the election. For any office the candidate must obtain signatures of at least 125 registered voters for the area where they are running for office (except in communities of fewer than 3,500 people, where the number is lower), and if they are running as a candidate from a political party where partisan elections are permitted, must pay a fee of 2% of their yearly salary (no fee is required for persons not running as a candidate for a primary of a political party). Petitions, along with additional paperwork, must be filed between about four and five months before the election, subject to additional requirements for candidates for a primary election.[38] 1,000 signatures are required for a US House race and 10,000 for a statewide race (i.e. US President, US Senate, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Attorney General), including 400 from each Congressional district.[39] Nominees of a political party that "at either of the two preceding statewide general elections, received at least 10 percent of the total vote cast for any statewide office filled in that election" are exempt from needing to gather signatures.[40]

Constitutional dimensions of ballot access laws

The Constitution has limited the states' discretion to determine their own ballot access laws:

  • the right to equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment (when the restrictions involve a discriminatory classification of voters, candidates, or political parties);
  • rights of political association under the First Amendment (especially when the restrictions burden the rights of political parties and other political associations, but also when they infringe on the rights of a candidate or a voter not to associate with a political party);
  • rights of free expression under the first amendment;
  • rights of voters (which the Supreme Court has said are "inextricably intertwined" with the rights of candidates);
  • property interests and liberty interests in candidacy;
  • other rights to "due process of law"
  • the right to petition the government (this argument is sometimes raised to allege that signature-gathering requirements, or the rules implementing them, are unfairly restrictive);
  • freedom of the press (which historically included the right to print ballots containing the name of the candidate of one's choosing);
  • the right to a "republican form of government," which is guaranteed to each state (although this clause has been held not to be enforceable in court by individual citizens).

The US Supreme Court precedent on ballot access laws cases has been conflicting. In Williams v. Rhodes (1969) the court struck down Ohio's ballot access laws on First and Fourteenth Amendment grounds. During the 1970s the Supreme Court upheld strict ballot access laws, with a 'compelling State interest' being the "preservation of the integrity of the electoral process and regulating the number of candidates on the ballot to avoid voter confusion."[41]

The Supreme Court did strike down provisions in a ballot access law in Anderson v. Celebrezze,' 460 U.S. 780 (1983), but most of the subsequent court rulings in the 1980s–2000s continued to uphold ballot access laws in both primary and general elections. Among the most notable of these cases from the 1970s–1990s:

  • Bullock v. Carter, 405 U.S. 134 (1972)
  • Illinois State Bd. of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party, 440 U.S. 173 (1979)
  • U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779 (1995)
  • Lubin v. Panish, 415 U.S. 709 (1974)
  • Norman v. Reed, 502 U.S. 279 (1992).

The Supreme Court has not expressly ruled on the maximum level of restrictions that can be imposed on an otherwise qualified candidate or political party seeking ballot access. As a result, lower courts have often reached difficult conclusions about whether a particular ballot access rule is unconstitutional.

Requiring an otherwise eligible candidate or political party to obtain signatures greater than 5% of the eligible voters in the previous election may be unconstitutional. This is based on Jenness v. Fortson, 403 U.S. 431 (1971); the court upheld a restrictive ballot access law with this 5% signature requirement, whereas the Williams v. Rhodes (1969) had involved a 15% signature requirement.[42] Most State ballot access requirements, even the more restrictive ones, are less than 5%, and the Supreme Court has generally refused to hear ballot access cases that involved an Independent or minor party candidate challenging a ballot access law that requires less than 5%.[43]

International human rights law and ballot access

International agreements that have the status of treaties of the US are part of the supreme law of the land, under Article VI of the United States Constitution:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art. 25
  • Copenhagen Document, ¶¶6-8, Annex I to 1990 Charter of Paris

Another source of international human rights law derives from universally accepted norms that have found expression in resolutions of the U.N. General Assembly. Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not binding under US law the way a treaty is, this type of norm is recognized as a source of international law in such treaties as the Statute of the International Court of Justice, to which the US is a party:

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art. 21

(NB: to be completed)

Write-in status versus ballot access

Depending on the office and the state, it may be possible for a voter to cast a write-in vote for a candidate whose name does not appear on the ballot. It is extremely rare for such a candidate to win office. In some cases, write-in votes are simply not counted. Having one's name printed on the ballot confers an enormous advantage over candidates who are not on the ballot. The US Supreme Court has noted that write-in status is absolutely no substitute for being on the ballot.

The two most notable cases of write-in candidates actually winning are the elections of Lisa Murkowski in 2010 and Strom Thurmond in 1954, both to the United States Senate. Other cases include the election of Charlotte Burks to the Tennessee State Senate seat of her late husband, Tommy Burks, murdered by his only opponent on the ballot; and the write-in primary victories in the re-election campaign of Mayor Anthony A. Williams of the District of Columbia. All of these cases involved unique political circumstances, a popular and well–known candidate, and a highly organized and well–funded write-in education campaign.

Other obstacles facing third parties

The growth of any third political party in the United States faces extremely challenging obstacles, among them restrictive ballot access. Other obstacles often cited as barriers to third-party growth include:

  • Campaign funding reimbursement for any political party that gets at least 5% of the vote—implemented in many states "to help smaller parties"—typically helps the two biggest parties;
  • Laws intended to fight corporate donations, with loopholes that require teams of lawyers to navigate the laws;
  • The role of corporate money in propping up the two established parties;
  • The allegedly related general reluctance of news organizations to cover minor political party campaigns;
  • Moderate voters being divided between the major parties, or registered independent, so that both major primaries are hostile to moderate or independent candidates;
  • Politically motivated gerrymandering of election districts by those in power, to reduce or eliminate political competition (two-party proponents would argue that the minority party in that district should just nominate a more centrist candidate relative to that district);
  • Plurality voting scaring voters from credibly considering more than two major parties, as opponents of one would have to unite behind the other to have the most effective chance of winning (see Duverger's law);
  • The extended history and reputations of the two established parties, with both existing for over 150 years and being entrenched in the minds of the public;
  • The absence of proportional representation;
  • The 15% poll requirement by the non-government entity Commission on Presidential Debates;
  • The public view that third parties have no chance of beating the worse of evils, and are therefore a wasted vote;
  • Campaign costs of convincing interested voters that the party nominee has a chance of winning, and regaining that trust after an election where the third party got the third-most votes or, worse, split the vote between two similar candidates so that the most disliked candidate won (i.e. "spoiling" the election; this is less of a problem with condorcet voting and range voting).

Justification of strict ballot access laws by two party supporters

Strict ballot access laws are not required for a two–party system, as can be seen by the experience of the United Kingdom. However, the following arguments are put forth about the need for strict ballot access laws in the United States:

  • With plurality voting, allowing third candidates on the ballot could split the vote of a majority and throw the race to a candidate not favored by the majority. Allowing only two candidates on the ballot ensures that at least the worst one is never elected.
  • If a third party could get enough votes to win an election, then voters who would support the nominee could infiltrate one of the two parties by registering as members, and force a win in that party's primary. However, pulling this off would take considerable coordination on the part of the supporting voters, especially if half of them preferred to infiltrate the other major party or remain independent. It would also depend on the rules of the major party for how people may become candidates in their primary, and on which registered members may vote in the primary.
  • There is a one person one vote mandate. If voters could vote in a primary for one candidate, and then sign a petition for another candidate, this would violate that mandate. Some voters might sign a petition for the candidate they want, and then vote in the primary for the candidate who would be easier to beat. Since primary votes are anonymous, and a party therefore cannot remove that voter's vote after it is cast, the only remedy is to strike the voter's signature on the petition. As for signatures not counting if a voter later votes in a primary, that could be reformed since the political party would know in advance about the signatures if they are filed in time.
  • Sore loser laws, where a candidate who loses in a primary may not then run as an independent candidate in that same election, stem from contract laws. Similar–minded candidates run in the same primary with the contract that the losers will drop out of the race and support the winner so that they do not split the votes of similar–minded voters and cause the other party's nominee to win with 40% of the vote. The need for primaries is primarily because of plurality voting, whose rules state that the candidate receiving the most votes wins, even if not a majority.
  • Strict ballot access laws make it difficult for extremists to get on the ballot, since few people would want to sign their petition.

See also


  1. ^ "Ballot access". Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Baracskay, Daniel. "Ballot Access". The First Amendment Encyclopedia. Murfreesboro, Tennessee: Middle Tennessee State University. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  3. ^ Avlon, John P. (December 30, 2011). "How ballot access laws hurt voters". CNN. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  4. ^ Richard Winger, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 30, 2013. Retrieved February 8, 2016.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) "The Importance of Ballot Access", Long Term View (Andover, MA: Massachusetts School of Law, Spring 1994)
  5. ^ [1] "U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against Fusion", Ballot Access News, 5 May 1997. Retrieved 22 September 2008
  6. ^ [2] "OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report on the 2 November 2004 elections in the United States", OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, 31 March 2005. Retrieved 22 September 2008
  7. ^ "Constitution Party".
  8. ^ "Alabama Votes" (PDF).
  9. ^ Mary Jo Pitzl, ""Green Party wins ballot status", The Arizona Republic, 20 April 2008. Retrieved 22 September 2008
  10. ^ "California Secretary of State - Political Party Qualification". 7 November 2006. Archived from the original on 6 May 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  11. ^ [3] 16 October 2008
  12. ^ [4] 2016-08-26
  13. ^ [5] Archived 2016-11-22 at the Wayback Machine 2016-04-14
  14. ^ [6]
  15. ^ [7]
  16. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on April 4, 2012. Retrieved October 16, 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ [8]
  18. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on April 4, 2012. Retrieved October 16, 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 26, 2011. Retrieved June 20, 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-08-20. Retrieved 2015-07-17.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ NC General Assembly webmasters. "N.C.G.S Chapter 163 Elections and Election Law". Archived from the original on 3 May 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  22. ^ "N.C.G.S. §163-96(a)(2) "Political party" defined; creation of new party". Archived from the original on 17 April 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  23. ^ a b "New Political Party Ballot Access | North Carolinians for Free and Proper Elections PAC". Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  24. ^ "N.C.G.S. §163-96(a)(1) "Political party" defined; creation of new party". Archived from the original on 17 April 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  25. ^ "N.C.G.S. §163-97 Termination of status as political party". Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  26. ^ "N.C.G.S. §163-97.1 Voters affiliated with expired political party". Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  27. ^ a b "N.C.G.S. §163-122 Unaffiliated candidates nominated by petition". Archived from the original on 17 April 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  28. ^ "Unaffiliated District Candidates Access to the Ballot | North Carolinians for Free and Proper Elections". Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  29. ^ [9] "Elections and Voting", North Dakota Secretary of State. Retrieved 22 September 2008
  30. ^ [10] "Secretary of State Eases Restrictions on LPO Ballot Access", Libertarian Party of Ohio, 22 May 2007. Retrieved 22 September 2008
  31. ^ [11] "Ohio Libertarian Party wins ballot access lawsuit", Ballot Access News, 17 July 2008. Retrieved 16 October 2008
  32. ^ [12] "Number of Signatures Required on Petitions Filed for the 2006 Election", South Dakota Secretary of State. Retrieved 22 September 2008
  33. ^ [13] "Qualifying Procedures for Candidates for United States Senator", Tennessee Division of Elections. Retrieved 3 November 2008
  34. ^ [14] "Qualifying Procedures for Tennessee Candidates for United States House of Representatives", Tennessee Division of Elections. Retrieved 3 November 2008
  35. ^ [15] "Tennessee Ballot Access Procedures for Candidates for U.S. President", Tennessee Division of Elections. Retrieved 3 November 2008
  36. ^ [16] "Against all odds, third-party candidates fight on", The Tennessean. Retrieved 3 November 2008
  37. ^ [17] "Candidate's Guide to Primary and General Election", Texas Secretary of State. Retrieved 22 September 2008
  38. ^ An example for the 2007 election appears here "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 13, 2007. Retrieved September 24, 2007.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link).
  39. ^ "LIS> Code of Virginia> 24.2-506". Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  40. ^ [18]
  41. ^ Constitutional Right To Candidacy. Nicole A. Gordon Political Science Quarterly Volume 91, Number 3, 1976
  42. ^ [19] "Jenness v. Fortson, 403 U. S. 431 (1971)", US Supreme Court Center. Retrieved 22 September 2008
  43. ^ [20] "Oklahoma Supreme Court Won't Hear Ballot Case – Libertarian Ballot Access Case Had Been Filed in 2004", Ballot Access News, 1 June 2007. Retrieved 22 September 2008


External links

2016 United States presidential election

The 2016 United States presidential election was the 58th quadrennial American presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. The Republican ticket of businessman Donald Trump and Indiana Governor Mike Pence defeated the Democratic ticket of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Senator from Virginia Tim Kaine, despite losing the popular vote. Trump took office as the 45th president, and Pence as the 48th vice president, on January 20, 2017.

Trump emerged as the front-runner amidst a wide field of Republican primary candidates, while Clinton defeated Senator Bernie Sanders and became the first female presidential nominee of a major American party. Trump's populist, nationalist campaign, which promised to "Make America Great Again" and opposed political correctness, illegal immigration, and many free-trade agreements, garnered extensive free media coverage. Clinton emphasized her extensive political experience, denounced Trump and many of his supporters as bigots, and advocated the expansion of President Obama's policies; racial, LGBT, and women's rights; and "inclusive capitalism". The tone of the general election campaign was widely characterized as divisive and negative. Trump faced controversy over his views on race and immigration, incidents of violence against protestors at his rallies, and his alleged sexual misconduct, while Clinton's campaign was undermined by declining approval ratings and an FBI investigation of her improper use of a private email server.

Clinton had held the lead in nearly every pre-election nationwide poll and in most swing state polls, leading some commentators to compare Trump's victory to that of Harry S. Truman in 1948 as one of the greatest political upsets in modern U.S. history. While Clinton received 2.87 million more votes nationwide (the largest margin ever for a candidate who lost the electoral college), a margin of 2.1%, Trump won a majority of electoral votes, with a total of 306 electors from 30 states, including upset victories in the pivotal Rust Belt region. Ultimately, Trump received 304 electoral votes and Clinton garnered 227, as two faithless electors defected from Trump and five defected from Clinton. Trump is the fifth person in U.S. history to become president while losing the nationwide popular vote. He is the first president without any prior experience in public service or the military, the oldest at inauguration and is also the wealthiest. Trump flipped six statewide races from the 2012 election, those being Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In addition, he also gained one electoral vote in Maine due to the state's split allocation between the two congressional districts.

The United States government's intelligence agencies concluded on January 6, 2017, that the Russian government had interfered in the elections in order to "undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency". President Trump repeatedly criticized these conclusions, calling the issue a "hoax" and "fake news". Trump has also criticized accusations of collusion between Russia and his campaign, citing a lack of evidence. Investigations regarding such collusion were started by the FBI, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the House Intelligence Committee. The Special Counsel investigation began in May 2017 and concluded in March 2019. A redacted version of the report, released in April 2019, concluded that Russian interference, to favor Trump's candidacy and hinder Clinton's, occurred "in sweeping and systematic fashion" via a social media campaign and computer hacking. The prevailing evidence, which was not necessarily complete, "did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government".

Age of candidacy

Age of candidacy is the minimum age at which a person can legally qualify to hold certain elected government offices. In many cases, it also determines the age at which a person may be eligible to stand for an election or be granted ballot access.

The first known example of a law enforcing age of candidacy was the Lex Villia Annalis, a Roman law enacted in 180 BCE which set the minimum ages for senatorial magistrates.

Arizona Green Party

The Green Party of Arizona (AZGP) is the affiliate of the Green Party in the state of Arizona. It was founded by Carolyn Campbell alongside others in the 1990s. The two current co-chairs of the Arizona Green Party are Angel Torres and Sara Mae Williams.

The Arizona Green Party is best known for its strong stances on environmental protection, which the party was founded upon. The Arizona Green Party promotes Ten Key Values: grassroots democracy, social justice, ecological wisdom, non-violence, decentralization, feminism and gender equality, community-based economics, respect for diversity, personal and global responsibility, and future focus and sustainability. Additionally, The Green Party committee openly opposes the militarization of our borders and protests the idea of building a wall between U.S and Mexico, according to the party's official platform committee website. Arizona Green Party stand against free-trade and in support of repealing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Fast Track, and other globalizing trade policies.In 2016, the Arizona Green Party successfully sued the state of Arizona to ensure their presidential nominee, Jill Stein, was placed on the ballot after the party failed to submit a slate of Presidential electors on time. Jill Stein received a total of 34,345 votes in Arizona, leaving her with 1.3% of the total vote.

Ballot Access News

Ballot Access News is a United States-based monthly online and print newsletter edited and published by Richard Winger of California, an expert on ballot access law in the United States. Published since 1985, the newsletter advocates "fair and equitable ballot access laws."

Ballot Access News reports on state and federal court decisions, compares American ballot access laws to those of other democratic nations, and documents the number of votes independent and minor party candidates receive. The newsletter also records the activities of the Coalition for Free and Open Elections, an interest group of minor party members and others working together on ballot access law reform issues. Further, the newsletter occasionally notes developments on the usage of instant-runoff voting in the United States.

Better for America

Better for America (BFA) is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization that was dedicated to getting nationwide ballot access for an independent candidate for President of the United States in the 2016 election. The effort was inspired by the unpopularity of the two major party nominees, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and was seen as part of the Stop Trump movement.The organization's initial strategy was to gain ballot access in states that do not require a candidate to be named, and then name its candidate after the major party conventions. The candidate was planned to be named by an advisory board rather than through traditional primary elections, or through a crowdsourcing effort like the failed Americans Elect effort in the 2012 election. On August 8, 2016, it was reported that Evan McMullin, an anti-Trump Republican and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official, would be Better for America's nominee. McMullin was officially nominated on August 24.In July, the organization filed petitions in two states, New Mexico and Arkansas. By early August, Arkansas had accepted the petition, while New Mexico had rejected the petition because it did not have enough valid signatures, although the New Mexico decision was challenged in court. On August 22, the organization announced that it was ceasing further ballot access efforts. On September 8, the New Mexico Secretary of State reversed his decision and placed Better For America on the ballot.Notable people involved in the organization include conservative donor John Kingston III and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman. Lawrence Lessig and Randy Barnett expressed their support for the organization in a Time opinion piece.

Evan McMullin 2016 presidential campaign

The 2016 presidential campaign of Evan McMullin was announced on August 8, 2016. Evan McMullin, the former chief policy director for the House Republican Conference and a former CIA operations officer, ran as an independent candidate.

Green Party of the United States

The Green Party of the United States (GPUS) is a green federation of political parties in the United States. The party promotes green politics, specifically environmentalism; nonviolence; social justice; participatory, grassroots democracy; gender equality; LGBT rights; anti-war and anti-racism. On the political spectrum, the party is generally seen as left-wing.The GPUS was founded in 2001 as the evolution of the Association of State Green Parties (ASGP), which was formed in 1996. After its founding, the GPUS soon became the primary national green organization in the country, eclipsing the Greens/Green Party USA (G/GPUSA), which formed in 1991 out of the Green Committees of Correspondence (CoC), a collection of local green groups active since 1984. The ASGP had increasingly distanced itself from the G/GPUSA in the late 1990s.The Greens gained widespread public attention during the 2000 presidential election, when the ticket composed of Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke won 2.7% of the popular vote. Nader was vilified by many Democrats and even some Greens, who accused him of spoiling the election for Al Gore, the Democratic candidate. Nader maintains that he was not a spoiler in the 2000 election.

Libertarian Party of Missouri

The Libertarian Party of Missouri is the Missouri affiliate of the Libertarian Party. The state chair is Bill Slantz. Due to the state's low threshold of vote percentage required for ballot access (2% of the votes in a statewide race), the party has been an established party in Missouri with ballot access since 1992.

Libertarian Party of Oklahoma

The Libertarian Party of Oklahoma is the branch of the Libertarian Party in Oklahoma. It has been active in state politics since the 1970s, but due to what critics characterize as Oklahoma's restrictive ballot access requirements the party has been an "official" party during only portions of the last 25 years.

Libertarian Party of Tennessee

The Libertarian Party of Tennessee (LPTN) is a political party in the United States that operates in the state of Tennessee. It is a recognized affiliate of the national Libertarian Party of the United States. On September 20, 2010, the party gained the legal right to ballot access after a restrictive Tennessee law was struck down in the case Libertarian Party of Tennessee v. Goins. The party's annual convention is held in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

List of candidates in the United States presidential election, 2008

The following are lists of candidates in the 2008 United States presidential election. Candidates who are not on any state ballots, withdrew from the race, suspended their presidential campaign, or failed to earn their party's nomination are listed separately.

Mimi Soltysik 2016 presidential campaign

The 2016 presidential campaign of Emidio 'Mimi' Soltysik, an activist from Los Angeles, California, began with his announcement of candidacy on October 17, 2015. He was formally nominated by the Socialist Party USA for President at their November 2015 convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His running-mate was Angela Nicole Walker, a bus driver and labor organizer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The campaign was on the ballot in two states (Colorado and Michigan) as well as in the U.S. overseas territory of Guam, which has no electoral votes. It earned 4,061 total votes.

Ralph Nader 2008 presidential campaign

The 2008 presidential campaign of Ralph Nader, political activist, author, lecturer and attorney began on February 24, 2008. He announced his intent to run as an independent candidate, on NBC's Meet The Press. It was Nader's fifth campaign; he ran in the four election cycles prior to 2008: 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004. The 2008 election was the third in which he had officially run a national campaign. While Nader ran as an independent, in some states he had ballot access with the Independent-Ecology Party, the Natural Law Party, and the Peace and Freedom Party. Nader received 738,475 votes.

Reform Party of the United States of America

The Reform Party of the United States of America (RPUSA), generally known as the Reform Party USA or the Reform Party, is a political party in the United States, founded in 1995 by Ross Perot.

Perot, who received 18.9% of the popular vote as an independent candidate in the 1992 presidential election and wanted to participate also in the 1996 presidential election, thought Americans were disillusioned with the state of politics as being corrupt and unable to deal with vital issues. Perot claimed to represent a viable alternative to Republicans and Democrats, and, as a result, founded the Reform Party. Perot won 8.4% of the popular vote in 1996. Although he came nowhere close to winning the presidency, no other third-party or independent candidate has since managed to receive as high a share of the vote.

The party has nominated several notable candidates over the years, including Perot himself, Pat Buchanan, and Ralph Nader. Donald Trump ran for president on the Reform Party ticket in 2000 before switching to the Republican Party and becoming president in 2016. Its most significant victory came when Jesse Ventura was elected Governor of Minnesota in 1998, although he left the party shortly into his term. In around the year 2000, party infighting and scandals led to a major decline in the party's strength. Beginning with Buchanan's poor showing in the 2000 election, no Reform Party presidential candidate has ever been able to attain at least 1% of the vote.

Richard Winger

Richard Lee Winger (born August 27, 1943) is an American political activist and analyst. He is the publisher and editor of Ballot Access News. He sits on the editorial board of the Election Law Journal. Winger publishes analysis, statistics and legal information and supports more equitable laws allowing access to the ballot for minor parties.Winger is widely regarded as an expert on ballot access and election law.

Though not a lawyer, he testifies in court cases and legislative hearings and is a source for media and political organizers. He has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Journal of Election Law, the Fordham Urban Law Review, American Review of Politics, California Journal and other publications. He has appeared as a commentator on ballot access on NBC, ABC, CNN, and NPR. Since 1985 Winger has published Ballot Access News, a monthly newsletter covering developments in ballot access law and among the minor parties generally.

Third-party and independent candidates for the 2012 United States presidential election

This article contains lists of official third party and independent candidates associated with the 2012 United States presidential election.

"Third party" is a term commonly used in the United States to refer to political parties other than the two major parties, the Democratic Party and Republican Party. An independent candidate is one who runs for office with no formal party affiliation.

Those listed as candidates have done one or more of the following: formally announced they are candidates in the 2012 presidential election, filed as candidates with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and/or received the presidential nomination of their respective party. They are listed alphabetically by surname within each section.

Third-party and independent candidates for the 2016 United States presidential election

This article contains lists of official and potential third party and independent candidates associated with the 2016 United States presidential election.

"Third party" is a term commonly used in the United States in reference to political parties other than the two major parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. An independent candidate is one who runs for office with no formal party affiliation.

Ballot access in states holding 270 or more electoral votes represents a majority of the 538 electoral votes in the Electoral College. The number of electoral votes for which a party or independent candidate has secured ballot access may increase as those parties or candidates complete their petitions, and filings for ballot access, until September 2016 when the last petition deadlines occur.According to the Green Papers website, 31 people were on the ballot in at least one state, while 192, including those who were on ballots in some states, obtained recognition as official "write-in" candidates.

Third party (United States)

Third party is a term used in the United States for American political parties other than the Republican and Democratic parties.

Working Families Party

The Working Families Party (WFP) is a minor political party in the United States, founded in New York in 1998. There are active chapters in New York, Connecticut, Oregon, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Nevada, West Virginia, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, and Illinois.The Working Families Party of New York was first organized in 1998 by a coalition of labor unions, community organizations, members of the now-inactive national New Party, and a variety of advocacy groups such as Citizen Action of New York and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. The party's main concerns are jobs, healthcare, raising the minimum wage, universal paid sick days, the student debt crisis, higher taxes on the rich, public education, and energy and environmental reform. It has usually cross-endorsed progressive Democratic or Republican candidates through fusion voting, but will occasionally run its own candidates.


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