Understand Ballot Access in 5 Minutes

are you thinking about running for
office? don’t be shy, you have a Presidential look about you… and that hair! but how do you actually run for office? it takes more than just printing up a
bunch of buttons the rules for getting on the ballot, meaning to be on the list of candidates people can vote for in an election, vary from state to state the
Constitution leaves this up to the states though Congress could establish a
national set of rules for federal elections if it wanted to obviously there’s the basic way to get on the ballot win the primary for the Republican or
Democratic Party you can try to get creative here but
that probably won’t get you very far now as a general rule you have to
register with the party and meet their internal qualifications to run in the
primary there is such a thing as a party caucus
to select candidates though this generally only happens in presidential
elections the big difference here is that in a
caucus the voting happens live and in person instead of through ballots you can either vote directly for the
candidates or vote for delegates who’ll vote on your behalf to pick the
candidates either way the idea is that everyone
decides live and in person more states have primaries than caucuses possibly because all that voting gets out of hand let’s use Pennsylvania as an example there to get on the primary ballot a
candidate for a major party needs to pay a fee and provide anywhere from 300 to 2,000 signatures depending on the importance of the office the feed to run for president, senator,
or governor in a primary is $200 there are no records if anyone not being
able to pay candidates also need to file paperwork with their personal information a statement on their financial interests and a statement it says what they’re running for they need to promise they meet the
qualifications to run the other way to get on the ballot is to run as a third-party or independent candidate signatures for real people the candidate needs enough signatures to
equal 2% of all the votes cast in the largest election last time
around for that district to give you an idea of the numbers involved in 2010 the number of votes cast in the different Pennsylvania congressional districts range from around 150,000-250,000 the Senatorial election had over 4,000,000 votes cast the state level elections had smaller
numbers not going much above 27,000 so to be a third party candidate for
the Pennsylvania state legislature you would need around 540 signatures to run for Congress you’d need between 3,000-5,000
signatures and to run for the Senate you would need 80,000 signatures for comparison, Pennsylvania’s 6th largest city Scranton has only around 76,000 people in it and there’s more on
top of all those signatures you have to meet all of the qualifications to run you have to be 25 to run for Congress 30 to run for the Senate and 35 to be
president in Pennsylvania most state offices require you to be 30 this is likely for good reason you also have to be a citizen of the area and have lived there for a certain period of time again there’s probably a good reason for
this in Pennsylvania you also can’t run if you’ve been convicted of bribery, fraud, embezzlement, perjury, or any other infamous crime maybe that way they think their
elected representatives will be honest that’s right, honest, it’s adorable to pick another state Oklahoma the rules are largely the same there’s a
specific rule requiring candidates to use their real names and not to name a
famous person which means someone’s tried that at some point the filing fees are much higher some other differences are that in Oklahoma you can file a petition to contest a candidacy the number of signatures required is
different to get on the ballot and there’s also a law against bringing
intoxicating liquor within a 1/2 mile of a polling place some
states allow you to write a name in on the ballot rather than
selecting one of the options provided this has the potential for abuse though aside for electing representatives many
states may also allow resolutions onto the ballot… try again this is basically voting on a law directly rather than voting on a representative you
like to vote on the laws after all who knows what they’ll do once
they get in office these are called initiatives or referenda and they have their own rules in California for example you need to
draft up what you wanna do although sometimes the government will
help you draft it if you request then you have to gather signatures to get on the ballot in California you need at least 5% of the number of votes cast in the last election for Governor to put a
proposal on the ballot and you need at least 8% to put a
state constitutional amendment on the ballot and you need to get those signatures in less than 5 months then your proposal can be voted on next election so that’s all you and that fabulous head of hair need to know before you go out and start kissing babies and there you have it

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  1. The assumption has long been that states have almost unlimited discretion to censor the ballot to keep citizens off the ballot and preventing other citizens from voting for them. Over the last fifty years the presumed discretion of the states has been trimmed back by the Supreme Court. Yet ballot censorship is expensive to overcome even when possible.

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