Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

The 8 Worst Ballot Access Laws in America

Author: Quynh Uong
Created: 01 August, 2018
Updated: 17 October, 2022
2 min read

To have their voices heard and enact change, citizens are urged to use their vote. But how can America's population be truly represented when, in some states, it is nearly impossible for independent or minor party candidates to even appear on voters' ballots? What good is a "fair" vote when viable candidates are undermined by strict ballot access laws that favor the two major parties?

Clearly, election reform at state and federal levels is desperately needed. Here are 8 of America's worst ballot access laws. Ballot Access News editor Richard Winger and FairVote, helped provide the resources for this story. 

1. Georgia

Georgia's ballot access laws require a petition of 5% of the registered voters for US House and state legislature. It has never been used by a minor party for US House and not by an independent since 1964. The law was made worse in 1964 when the due date for petitions were moved up to July rather than October.

2. Illinois

Illinois' ballot access laws require the petition for US House, legislature, and country partisan office to receive 5% of the last vote cast.

3. Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania requires a party to have a membership of at least 15% of statewide voter registration to be on the ballot.

4. Virginia

To be considered a qualified party, Virginia requires that a group must have 10% of the vote for any statewide race at either of the last two elections. Only Democrats and Republicans have met this ballot access requirement for the last 21 years.

5. New Jersey

Since 1920, New Jersey requires a party to poll at least 10% of the total vote cast for the Assembly to be qualified. Only Democrats and Republicans have been able to achieve this requirement.

6. Maine

Maine's laws requires a member of a small qualified party to attain a petition of 2,000 party members, even if the party has only a few thousand members.

7. New Mexico

New Mexico's independent petition laws, in which they require 3% of the last gubernatorial vote and a post-nomination petition, have kept all independent candidates for governor and US Senate off the ballot.

Could we see independent candidates make history in 2018? Read more here.

8. Arizona

The Republican-led state legislature changed its ballot access requirements in 2015 to specifically target the Libertarian Party. Primary ballot access now considers the entire registered voting population -- changing the number of required signatures from 133 to over 3,100. That is equivalent to approximately 10% of the registered Libertarian voting population.