Ballot access
Ballot access rules, called nomination rules
Nomination rules
Nomination rules in elections regulate the conditions under which a candidate or political party is entitled to stand for election. The criteria to stand as a candidate depends on the individual legal system, however they may include the age of a candidate, citizenship, endorsement by a political...

 outside the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, regulate the conditions under which a candidate or political party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

 is either entitled to stand for election or to appear on voters' ballots. The criteria to stand as a candidate depends on the individual legal system, however they may include the age of a candidate, citizenship, endorsement by a political party and profession. Legal restrictions, such as those based around competence or moral aptitude, can be used in a discriminatory manner. Restrictive and discriminatory ballot access rules can impact the civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 of candidates, political parties and voters.

Overview of ballot access

Each state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

 has its own ballot access laws to determine who may appear on ballots and who may not. According to Article I
Article One of the United States Constitution
Article One of the United States Constitution describes the powers of Congress, the legislative branch of the federal government. The Article establishes the powers of and limitations on the Congress, consisting of a House of Representatives composed of Representatives, with each state gaining or...

, Section 4, of the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

, the authority to regulate the time, place, and manner of federal elections is up to each State, unless Congress legislates otherwise.

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, an old but common way to pick the winner, the candidate with the most votes wins, even if it is not a majority. Suppose a district is 55% Democrat and 45% Republican. If there are two candidates which appeal to democrats, and one who appeals to republicans, the vote of the democrats will likely be split between the first two candidates, and the republican will win even though 55% strongly prefer someone else. Plurality races, also known as First past the post, tend to cause consolidation among political parties for this reason. Also, it would be expensive to print 100+ names on a ballot. 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, as was the case in the crowded 2003 California recall. In that case, such actual crowding did not confuse voters: "Even though 135 candidates appeared on the ballot, newspapers reported that voters did not have trouble finding the candidate they wished to vote for."

Historically, there were generally no restrictions on ballot access in the United States until after the introduction of the so-called "Australian ballot" beginning in the 1880s. The eighteenth century prevalence of "voice voting" gave way to paper ballots, but until the 1880s paper ballots were not officially designed and printed by the government but were instead privately produced "tickets" that were distributed (usually by political parties) to the voter, who would take the ticket to the polling place and deposit it in the ballot box. The 1880s reform movement that led to officially designed secret ballots 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 conferred power on officials to regulate who may be on the ballot carried with it the danger that this power would be abused by officialdom and that legislatures controlled by the established political parties (specifically, the Republican
Republican Party (United States)
The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

 and Democratic
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

 Parties), would enact restrictive ballot access laws to influence election outcomes to ensure re-election of their own party's candidates.

Perhaps the most prominent advocate of the 1880s ballot reform movement, Dean Wigmore, suggested that "ten signatures" might be an appropriate requirement for nomination to the official ballot for a legislative office. In the twentieth 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 in such a way that the burdens created by these new ballot access requirements (usually in the form of difficult signature-gathering nominating petition
Nominating petition
A nominating petition is required in some jurisdictions in order for an independent or non-major-party candidate to gain ballot access. A certain number of valid signatures is typically prescribed by statute in order for the candidate to get on the ballot...

 drives) fell on alternative candidates, but not on major party candidates. Proponents of more open ballot access argue that restricting access to the ballot has the effect of unjustly restricting the choices available to the voters and typically disadvantages third party
Third party (United States)
The term third party is used in the United States for any and all political parties in the United States other than one of the two major parties . The term can also refer to independent politicians not affiliated with any party at all and to write-in candidates.The United States has had a...

 candidates and other candidates who are not affiliated with the established parties.

State laws, the Constitution, and international human rights

President George H.W. Bush signed the Copenhagen Document of the Helsinki Accords
Helsinki Accords
thumb|300px|[[Erich Honecker]] and [[Helmut Schmidt]] in Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe held in Helsinki 1975....

 that states in part:
The United States has been criticized by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe is the world's largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, human rights, freedom of the press and fair elections...

 (OSCE) for its harsh ballot access laws in the past. In 1996, United States delegates responded to the criticism by saying, unfair ballot access "could be remedied through existing appeal and regulatory structures and did not represent a breach of the Copenhagen commitments."

The OSCE published a report on the 2004 United States election, which, among other things, noted restrictive ballot access laws.

The United States and Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 are the only countries in the world that don’t have national ballot access standards for federal elections; however in Swiss federal elections each Canton
Cantons of Switzerland
The 26 cantons of Switzerland are the member states of the federal state of Switzerland. Each canton was a fully sovereign state with its own borders, army and currency from the Treaty of Westphalia until the establishment of the Swiss federal state in 1848...

 elects its own representatives, and each candidate can only be listed in one Canton. Since 1985, Democrats and Republicans (including Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), Congressman Tim Penny (D-MN) and Congressman Ron Paul
Ron Paul
Ronald Ernest "Ron" Paul is an American physician, author and United States Congressman who is seeking to be the Republican Party candidate in the 2012 presidential election. Paul represents Texas's 14th congressional district, which covers an area south and southwest of Houston that includes...

 (R-TX)) have repeatedly introduced in the US House of Representatives a bill that would set maximum ballot access requirements for House elections. The bill has only made it to the House floor once, in 1998, when it was defeated 62-363.

While some supporters of easy ballot access seek congressional intervention, other reformers are happy congress has not mandated stricter access laws in all states. Reducing access requiements at the local level would be easier than doing so federally if congress wanted to guarantee its re-elections.

State ballot access laws

Ballot access laws in the United States vary widely from state to state. A brief outline of such laws follows (incomplete).
  • 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 state-wide ballot access. The figure for 2006 state wide ballot access was 41,012 good signatures. 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 a third party has to poll 20% in a state wide race and it will retain state wide ballot access through to the next election.

  • Arizona: To gain ballot access, a new political party must gather signatures on a county by county basis, achieving over 20,000 good signatures 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
    Arizona Green Party
    The Green Party of Arizona is the affiliate of the Green Party in Arizona. It was founded by Carolyn Campbell and others in the 1990s.The Arizona Green Party is perhaps best known for its strong stances on immigration...

     gathered enough signatures to gain ballot access.
  • California: Per section 5100 of the California Election Code, ballot access requires one of the two conditions below to be met.
    • 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: Colorado has relatively lax ballot access requirements. For U.S. Senate, 1,000 signatures are required; for U.S. 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.
  • Louisiana: 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.(pdf) Presently, Louisiana law only allows for Presidential Primaries if a party has more than 40,000 registered voters statewide. Currently, this only applies to the Democrat 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. (Presidential Elector, Governor, Senator, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Treasurer, Comm. of Insurance, Comm. 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. It is prohibited to use the words "Independent" for a political party name. In the 2008 and 2010 Congressional elections, Louisiana briefly 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.(pdf)
  • 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.
  • Minnesota: Major party candidates are nominated by the state primary process. Independent and minor political party candidates are nominated by a petition process; two-thousand signatures for a statewide election, or five hundred for a state legislative election. Candidates have two week period to collect nominating petition signatures. Independent candidates may select a brief political party designation in lieu of independent.
  • Missouri: Missouri exempts parties from needing to gather signatures if they attain 2% of the vote in a statewide election.
  • New York (main article: qualified New York parties
    Qualified New York Parties
    In New York State, to qualify for automatic ballot access, a party must have received at least 50,000 votes in the previous gubernatorial election. They need not run their own candidate, they can nominate a different party's nominee, and if 50,000 voters vote for that candidate on their party...

    : To be recognized as a political party, the party must gain 50,000 votes in the most recent gubernatorial election. (There are, as of 2011, six such parties. Three of them, however, have primarily resorted to electoral fusion
    Electoral fusion
    Electoral fusion is an arrangement where two or more political parties on a ballot list the same candidate, pooling the votes for that candidate...

     and usually only nominate candidates already on either the Democratic or Republican lines. The sole exception is the Green Party
    Green Party of New York
    The Green Party of New York is a ballot-qualified political party in New York, which was founded in 1992. It is a part of the national Green Party movement...

    .) 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 must be taken from a majority of the state's congressional districts. All state legislature and congressional candidates must file petitions regardless of party nominations, except in special elections. Persons running as independents or from outside one of the qualified parties require three times the number of signatures as those running in established parties.
  • North Carolina: North Carolina's law pertaining to ballot access is codified in N.C.G.S Chapter 163 Elections and Election Law:
    • New Political Parties: According to N.C.G.S. §163-96(a)(2) 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.
    • Political Party Retention Requirement: According to N.C.G.S. §163-96(a)(1) 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) 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).
    • Statewide Unaffiliated Requirements: According to N.C.G.S. §163-122(a)(1) 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) 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.
  • North Dakota: Seven thousand petition signatures to create a new political party and nominate a slate of candidates for office. Independent candidates need a thousand 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.
  • Ohio: Late in 2006, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
    United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
    The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is a federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts:* Eastern District of Kentucky* Western District of Kentucky...

     invalidated Ohio's law for ballot access for new political parties in a suit brought by the Libertarian Party of Ohio. After the November elections, the outgoing Secretary of State and Attorney General requested an extension to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court so that the decision whether or not 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 U.S. District Court invalidated the Secretary of State's rules and placed the Libertarian Party on the ballot. 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 is being circulated during the period Sep. 14, 2007-Dec. 13, 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 percent of the vote for the highest vote-getter in the most recent election in the jurisdiction. A political body that wins two percent 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 percent of the state's total partisan enrollment is classified as a "minor political party," which has automatic ballot access in special elections
    A by-election is an election held to fill a political office that has become vacant between regularly scheduled 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 one percent of the vote for that political party in the preceding election for state governor. An independent candidate must collect petition signatures equal to one percent of the total votes for state governor, and a new political party must collect two-hundred and fifty petition signatures. In state legislative elections a registered political party needs to collect fifty signatures and an independent candidate must collect one percent of the total votes cast for state governor in the preceding election in their respective district.
  • 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. 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. 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). The last third party to be officially recognized was the American Party
    American Independent Party
    The American Independent Party is a right-wing political party of the United States that was established in 1967 by Bill and Eileen Shearer. In 1968, the American Independent Party nominated George C. Wallace as its presidential candidate and retired Air Force General Curtis E. LeMay as the vice...

     in 1968; none of its candidates received five percent of the statewide vote in 1970 and it was then subject to desertification as an official party.
  • Texas: For a registered political party in a statewide election to gain ballot access, they must either 1) obtain five percent of the vote in any statewide election or 2) collect petition signatures equal to one percent 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 one percent 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).
  • 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. 1,000 signatures are required for a U.S. House race and 10,000 for a statewide race (i.e. U.S. President, U.S. Senate, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Attorney General), including 400 from each Congressional district. 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.

Constitutional dimensions of ballot access laws

State ballot access restrictions can affect fundamental constitutional rights, including:
  • the right to equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment
    Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
    The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

     (when the restrictions involve a discriminatory classification of voters, candidates, or political parties)
  • rights of political association under the First Amendment
    First Amendment to the United States Constitution
    The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering...

     (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
    Supreme Court of the United States
    The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

     has said are "inextricably intertwined" with the rights of candidates)
  • property interests and liberty interests in candidacy
  • other rights to "due process of law"

It has also been argued that ballot access restrictions infringe the following constitutional rights:
  • 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
    Freedom of the press
    Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the freedom of communication and expression through vehicles including various electronic media and published materials...

     (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 United States Supreme Court precedent on ballot access laws cases has been a bit conflicting. In Williams v. Rhodes
Williams v. Rhodes
Williams v. Rhodes, , was a case before the United States Supreme Court.-Facts:Separate suits were brought by the American Independent Party and the Socialist Labor Party, challenging the validity of Ohio election laws insofar as they precluded the parties' being placed on the ballots to choose...

(1969) the court struck down Ohio's ballot access laws on First and Fourteenth Amendment grounds, but during the 1970s
File:1970s decade montage.png|From left, clockwise: US President Richard Nixon doing the V for Victory sign after his resignation from office after the Watergate scandal in 1974; Refugees aboard a US naval boat after the Fall of Saigon, leading to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975; The 1973 oil...

 tended to uphold strict ballot access law, with strict scrutiny no longer applying and a new compelling State interest arising, namely the, "preservation of the integrity of the electoral process and regulating the number of candidates on the ballot to avoid voter confusion." [Constitutional Right To Candidacy. Nicole A. Gordon Political Science Quarterly Volume 91 Number 3 1976]

Yet, in Anderson v. Celebrezze
Anderson v. Celebrezze
Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780 , was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States in which Ohio's filing deadline for independent candidates was determined to be unconstitutional.-Background:...

, 460 U.S. 780 (1983), the court struck down a strict ballot access law and seemed to be returning to the precedent outlined in Rhodes, which gave strong emphasis to due process and expressive rights. However, subsequent rulings throughout the 1980s - the present seem
  • 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
    U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton
    U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779 ,was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that states cannot impose qualifications for prospective members of the U.S. Congress stricter than those specified in the Constitution. The decision invalidated the Congressional...

    514 U.S. 779 (1995)
  • Lubin v. Panish, 415 U.S. 709 (1974)
  • Norman v. Reed, 502 U.S. 279 (1992)

Various state courts and lower federal courts have also upheld constitutional challenges to ballot access restrictions.

(NB: to be completed)

On the other hand, a number of court decisions are routinely cited as supporting the principle that states have considerable leeway, if justified by legitimate and compelling interests, to regulate who may appear on the ballot. The Supreme Court case cited most often this effect is Jenness v. Fortson, 403 U.S. 431 (1971), where the Court declined to strike down a very restrictive ballot access law in Georgia. The law in question required third party candidates seeking a nomination petition to obtain signatures no less than 5% of eligible voters in the previous election for that particular office. In most states, the requirement is less than 2%.

International human rights law and ballot access

International agreements that have the status of treaties of the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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
Write-in candidate
A write-in candidate is a candidate in an election whose name does not appear on the ballot, but for whom voters may vote nonetheless by writing in the person's name. Some states and local jurisdictions allow a voter to affix a sticker with a write-in candidate's name on it to the ballot in lieu...

 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 United States 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
Lisa Murkowski
Lisa Ann Murkowski is the senior U.S. Senator from the State of Alaska and a member of the Republican Party. She was appointed to the Senate in 2002 by her father, Governor Frank Murkowski. After losing a Republican primary in 2010, she became the second person ever to win a U.S...

 in 2010 and Strom Thurmond
Strom Thurmond
James Strom Thurmond was an American politician who served as a United States Senator. He also ran for the Presidency of the United States in 1948 as the segregationist States Rights Democratic Party candidate, receiving 2.4% of the popular vote and 39 electoral votes...

 in 1954, both to the United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

. Other cases include the election of Charlotte Burks
Charlotte Burks
Charlotte Gentry Burks is a farmer and Democratic party politician in Tennessee who has represented the 15th District as State Senator since 1998....

 to the Tennessee State Senate seat of her late husband, Tommy Burks
Tommy Burks
Tommy Burks was a farmer and Democratic Party politician in Tennessee, United States. He served in the Tennessee House of Representatives from 1970 until 1978, and in the Tennessee State Senate from 1978 until his murder in 1998.-Biography:Born in Cookeville, Tennessee, Burks was one of the most...

, murdered by his only opponent on the ballot
Byron Looper
Byron Looper , is a former Republican politician in Tennessee. In order to advance his political career, he legally changed his middle name from "Anthony" to ""...

; and the write-in primary victories in the re-election campaign of Mayor Anthony A. Williams
Anthony A. Williams
Anthony Allen "Tony" Williams is an American politician who served as the fifth mayor of the District of Columbia for two terms, from 1999 to 2007. He had previously served as chief financial officer for the District, managing to balance the budget and achieve a surplus within two years of...

 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 already in power, in order 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 voting for any candidate other than the lesser of evils, who is reported to have a chance of winning
  • The absence of proportional representation
    Proportional representation
    Proportional representation is a concept in voting systems used to elect an assembly or council. PR means that the number of seats won by a party or group of candidates is proportionate to the number of votes received. For example, under a PR voting system if 30% of voters support a particular...

  • 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 (not a problem with instant-runoff voting
    Instant-runoff voting
    Instant-runoff voting , also known as preferential voting, the alternative vote and ranked choice voting, is a voting system used to elect one winner. Voters rank candidates in order of preference, and their ballots are counted as one vote for their first choice candidate. If a candidate secures a...

     or condorcet 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 Canada and 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 a majority dislike. Allowing only two candidates on the ballot insures 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 can not 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

  • Ballot Access News
    Ballot Access News
    Ballot Access News is a U.S.-based monthly online newsletter edited and published by Richard Winger of California, an expert on ballot access law in the United States...

  • Coalition for Free and Open Elections
  • Free the Vote North Carolina

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.