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5 States With The Worst Ballot Access Laws

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Third parties that have a national infrastructure such as the Green Party and Libertarian Party have waged legal battles from California to North Carolina to improve their ability to get on the ballot. In California, a more lax state regarding ballot access laws, Terry Baum went through several legal hurdles in her race against U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi as the Green Party candidate.

The common method is to attain a certain percentage from the previous gubernatorial election for a third party to stay on the ballot or a specific number of signatures to qualify. The higher the threshold, the more difficult it will be to officially receive votes on Election Day. Louisiana is one of three states, along with Florida and Oklahoma, which has either a filing fee or petition for third parties.

 

In an opinion piece in the Telegraph, Bill Ferguson pointed to the flaws in Georgia’s election laws which discriminate against “minor parties.” There are only two recognized parties in the state and it isn’t exactly evenly spread out. Voters like Ferguson would vote for third party candidates if there were more than two lines on the ballots, but Democrats and Republicans can often run unopposed, eliminating any chance of competition.

What’s more, these major party candidates are so often embroiled in the back and forth banter between each other that it leaves out options that best represent any given district. More options allow for greater representation and the two main parties have enough polarization between them that makes more options a necessity. This leads us to…

 

In North Carolina, voters are not even able to register as Green Party. The Green Party is formally recognized in 19 states, but North Carolina is not among them. There have been attempts such as through the legislative process to rectify the situation. The Electoral Fairness Acts in 2003 and 2005 failed to go through or did so in a watered down version, respectively. The goal was to lower the thresholds to getting on the ballot. The Voter Freedom Act of 2013 is the latest attempt to at least create suggestions on how to amend the current system.

 

Since when does 25 equal 40,000? The major parties can easily run their candidate on the ballot with 25 signatures versus 2.5% of votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election, or approximately 40,000, which non-major party candidates are required to get. That threshold is currently being worked on and will likely not remain for much longer.

 

However, there are only two officially registered parties in the state, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. To sustain a third party, a candidate would need to receive at least 10 percent of the vote — the lucky number being over 50,000.

The good news is that the newly elected state House speaker, Jeff Hickman, authored H.B. 2134 which would drop the 5 percent requirement to only 5,000.

 

West Virginia has had a difficult time with giving third parties better chances at the ballot box. In 2007, it was compared to Oklahoma as one of the worst in the nation. In 2009, a bill passed which cut the petition requirement in half, from 2 percent to 1 percent. The statewide elections since have seen third party candidates from the Constitution Party to the Mountain (Green) Party, but West Virginia is one of a few states with strict ballot access laws to make the transition to a less restrictive system.

These are my five states with the most restrictive ballot access laws in no particular order. Agree? Disagree? What are yours?

Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


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8 comments
CurtBoyd
CurtBoyd

What about Pennsylvania?  Not only is the signature requirement high, but the major parties (Democratic and Republican), can challenge petitions and get up to $100,000 in court costs from the minor parties.

tjohara2012
tjohara2012

Eight States do not permit write-in votes for President of the United States (Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina and South Dakota) . Try to reconcile that with freedom of speech under the First Amendment.

PeterVidrine
PeterVidrine

@tjohara2012 Louisiana may not all write-in votes, but all it took for us to get Virgil Goode on the Presidential ballot was 8 signatures and $600.00  We could have opted to save the $600 and do a petition, but wasn't worth it.  Non presidential candidates only need their own signature and up to $600, depending on the scope of the seat.  To become an official "Recognized" party, you only need 1,000 registered voters.


Bottom line is, it's easy to run as a minor party in Louisiana, even if as an unrecognized party candidate.

RichardWinger
RichardWinger

The most objective means to see which states have the worst ballot access laws is to see how many candidates appear on the November ballot.  In 2014, the only states that probably won't have any minor party candidates on the November ballot for statewide office will be Alabama, California, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.  Tennessee is undetermined due to the pending lawsuit in the 6th circuit.  Washington state is the only state that doesn't have any statewide offices open in 2014.


The article says that in Georgia only the Democrats and Republicans are on the ballot, but the Libertarian Party is on the Georgia ballot for all statewide office, but not district offices.

Shawn M Griffiths
Shawn M Griffiths moderator

@RichardWinger There may not be third party candidates for statewide offices in California, but there will be independent candidates. States with restrictive ballot access laws are often unfriendly to independent candidates as much as they are to minor party candidates. It is an important clarification to make before one tries to throw California in with Oklahoma and Alabama.

RichardWinger
RichardWinger

In Oklahoma, an independent candidate can get on the general election ballot (for any office other than president) just by paying the filing fee, which is $1,500 for Governor and smaller amounts for other statewide offices.  Libertarian Richard Prawdzienski will be on the November 2014 ballot in Oklahoma for Governor.  He needs no petition.

I don't think it is likely that there will be any independent candidates on the November 2014 California ballot, but it is possible there will be one for Secretary of State.

Shawn M Griffiths
Shawn M Griffiths moderator

You're right, I should have clarified and said the primary ballot which all voters have a say and all candidates appear on a single ballot. You're right, though, the SOS race may be the only one for the general election.