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How to Run for President in 2 Easy Steps

NATIONAL — In 2012, not counting Obama and Romney, there were 26 candidates on presidential ballots in a least one state. They garnered between 518 and nearly 1.3 million votes. Some of these candidates ran as independents; others represented third parties, including the Green Party, the Constitution Party, and the Justice Party. They represented ideologies ranging from Socialist to Libertarian.

Some candidates pursue a broad swath of the electorate; others aim toward a much smaller niche. Most are relatively obscure.

Many voters were likely unaware of or have since forgotten the candidacy of actress/comedian Roseanne Barr, representing the Peace and Freedom Party. She placed sixth in the general election with over 67,000 votes. Another candidate, Jeff Boss, secured slightly over 1,000 votes in New Jersey running on the premise that it was the NSA who arranged the 911 attacks.

Who were these candidates? Why did they run? More importantly, what are their plans looking ahead to 2016? And despite the long odds, what other minor candidates will run in the next election? This article is the first in a series about what it takes to run for president and the role that these candidates play in American democracy.

We are taught from an early age that anyone can grow up to be president. The constitutional requirements are easy to meet: a candidate for president must be a natural born U.S. citizen of 35 or more years of age, and be a resident of the U.S. for at least 14 years (not even consecutively).

Filing for candidacy with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) is also fairly simple: the candidate must file a Statement of Candidacy (FEC Form 2), a simple one-page form indicating contact information and designation of at least one campaign committee. Any authorized campaign committees also must file a Statement of Organization (FEC Form 1).

Once a person has filed the proper forms, he or she becomes a candidate after a minimum threshold of $5,000 is either raised or spent by the individual and/or his or her designated campaign committees. That’s it. Completion of the above requirements makes you an official candidate — no different from the major-party candidates in at least one way.

But being a candidate does not automatically earn you a spot on the ballot. That process varies from state to state and typically involves some combination of signature gathering, paying fees, and other requirements. There were 417 Form 2 filers for the 2012 presidential election, yet only 26 were able to get on the ballot in at least one state. In addition, over 136,000 write-in votes were recorded in 2012.

So you want to run for president? In theory, the maxim that “anyone can grow up to be president” seems to hold true. But in practice, the hard part is getting elected.

In short, anyone can run; not everyone can win. The remainder of this series will focus on the challenges faced by the so-called “minor” candidates, as well as their importance in promoting the American Dream.

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