Ballot access for major and minor party candidates
Absentee voting • Early voting •
Open Primary •
Closed Primary • Blanket Primary •
U.S. House requirements for Independents in 2014
- 1 Political parties
- 2 State election agencies
- 3 Voter preference for a third party
- 4 Minor parties in gubernatorial races
- 5 Yearly deadlines
- 6 Court cases
- 7 Find your state information
- 8 See also
- 9 References
For specific information about each state, click your state on our map or find your state in the navigation box on the right.
Note:If you have any questions or comments about the research on this page, email us.
As of April 2014, there are 33 distinct officially recognized political parties in the 50 states and Washington, D.C. Counting the total number of instances of a recognized party, there are 219 total parties in the 50 states (and Washington D.C.). For example, the Democratic and Republican parties are recognized in all 50 states plus D.C., which accounts for 102 of the 219 total parties. This figure is based upon the number of officially recognized political parties and does not include situations where a candidate chooses a party designation or party label to appear next to their name on the ballot. For example, candidates have appeared in Washington under the designation "Happiness Party." That does not signify an actual political party -- rather, it is the label chosen by a candidate to appear next to his or her name on the ballot.
Three minor parties are recognized in more than 10 states:
|Total State Affiliates for each Political Party|
|Alaskan Independence Party||1|
|American First Party||1|
|American Party of South Carolina||1|
|Connecticut Independent Party||1|
|Delaware Independent Party||1|
|Hawaii Independent Party||1|
|Independence Party of Minnesota||1|
|Independent American Party||4|
|Labor Party Party||1|
|Liberty Union Party||1|
|Natural Law Party||2|
|Oregon Independent Party||1|
|Oregon Progressive Party||1|
|Peace and Freedom Party||2|
|Socialism and Liberation Party||1|
|United Citizens Party||1|
|Vermont Progressive Party||1|
|Working Families Party||5|
The number of recognized political parties fluctuates regularly, as parties are certified and/or lose official party status. For example, Arkansas requires minor parties to win at least 3 percent of the vote in the most recent gubernatorial or presidential election in order to maintain their recognized status. Those parties have not achieved those requirements in the past several elections, thereby needing to reapply for official certification in the year after the even year election.
Many states distinguish between "major" parties and "minor" parties. The differences between the two can be found in how they put a candidate on the ballot. In all states major parties are granted access to primary elections, allowing them to determine which of their candidates will continue to the general election. Many states, however, do not allow minor parties to participate in primary elections, meaning their candidates can only run in the general election. Many states also allow major parties to select candidates by convention, requiring only a certificate of nomination to register the candidate. In contrast, minor parties are often required to submit petitions to register their candidates, proving to the state that they have a certain percentage of support from the total registered voters before their candidate is placed on the ballot.
The process to be recognized as a political party varies by state. Some states require petitions to be submitted with a certain percentage of registered voter signatures. Others require a certain number of voters to register with the party on their voter registration card before a group is considered a political party. Other states require a candidate to run as a member of a political group before it is recognized as a full party, requiring that candidate to earn a certain percentage of the votes cast in that election for the identified group to be considered a party. For information on a specific state's process, check out that state's ballot access requirements page.
The table below details the officially recognized political parties in each state and links to the party websites.
State election agencies
- See also: State election agencies
From getting on the ballot to campaigning to election day procedures, election agencies are responsible for monitoring all aspects of an election. The majority of election monitoring occurs at the state level, but all candidates running for federal office must interact with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). However, state agencies can also be involved in the federal election process, and they are authorities over all state elections. The agencies involved in the election process vary by state, though a majority of states, 41 out of 50, use their Secretary of State Office in some capacity. One to three state agencies per state are involved in elections across the United States, totaling over 90 agencies other than the FEC. Twenty-four of the states also involve county or municipal level offices, including county clerks, town auditors and others. These offices most often register independent candidates or certify petitions for state offices. As of December 2013, Ballotpedia counts 1,880 municipal offices involved in the election process.
For specific information about election-related agencies in your state, click on our map or find your state in the navigation box at the top right on this page.
Voter preference for a third party
According to an October 2013 Gallup poll conducted during the first week of the federal government shutdown, 60 percent of Americans felt "the Democratic and Republican parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that a third major party is needed." Voter preference for a third major party has increased 20 percent in the past 10 years, from a low of 40 percent in 2003 (the first year Gallup conducted this poll).
|Perceived Need for a Third Party|
|Poll||Do adequate job||Third party needed||No opinion|
October 3-6, 2013
September 6-9, 2012
September 8-11, 2011
April 20-23, 2011
August 27-30, 2010
September 8-11, 2008
September 14-16, 2007
July 6-8, 2007
September 7-10, 2006
October 10-12, 2003
|Note: Exact question asked in the survey: "In your view, do the Republican and Democratic parties do an adequate job of representing the American people, or do they do such a poor job that a third major party is needed?"|
Minor parties in gubernatorial races
The following table includes state-by-state information on when a minor party's candidate for governor last won at least 5 percent of the vote. In four states (Maryland, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wyoming), a minor party candidate for governor has not won 5 percent or more of the vote since the 19th century. Only 17 states saw minor party candidates win at least 5 percent of the vote for governor between 1982 and 2012. The information was compiled by Richard Winger of Ballot Access News.
|When did a minor party last poll 5% for governor?|
|Alabama||John Logan Cashin||National Democratic||1970||14.70%|
|Alaska||Walter J. Hickel||Alaskan Independence||1990||38.90%|
|Connecticut||Lowell Weicker||A Connecticut Party||1990||40.40%|
|Delaware||Isaac Dolphus Short||Independent Republican Party||1936||6.60%|
|Florida||Sidney J. Catts||Prohibition||1916||47.70%|
|Georgia||James K. Hines||People's||1902||5.50%|
|Hawaii||Frank F. Fasi||Best||1994||30.70%|
|Idaho||W. Scott Hall||Progressive||1926||28.40%|
|Indiana||Albert J. Beveridge||Progressive||1912||26.00%|
|Iowa||John L. Stevens||Progressive||1912||15.60%|
|Kansas||Henry J. Allen||Progressive||1914||15.90%|
|Louisiana||John M. Parker||Progressive||1916||37.20%|
|Maryland||Thomas Holiday Hicks||American||1857||54.90%|
|Massachusetts||Frank A. Goodwin||Equal Tax||1934||6.40%|
|Michigan||Henry R. Pattengill||Progressive||1914||8.30%|
|Mississippi||J. T. Lester||Socialist||1915||7.40%|
|Missouri||Albert D. Nortoni||Progressive||1912||15.60%|
|Montana||Frank J. Edwards||Farmer-Labor||1924||6.10%|
|Nevada||James Ray Houston||Independent American||1974||15.50%|
|New Hampshire||Meldrim Thomson||American||1970||9.90%|
|New Jersey||Everett Colby||Progressive||1913||11.00%|
|New Mexico||David E. Bacon||Green||2002||5.50%|
|New York||Carl Paladino||Conservative||2010||5.00%|
|North Carolina||Iredell Meares||Progressive||1912||20.40%|
|North Dakota||Alvin C. Strutz||Independent Republican Party||1944||18.80%|
|Ohio||James R. Garfield||Progressive||1914||5.40%|
|Oklahoma||Fred W. Holt||Socialist||1914||20.80%|
|Oregon||W. J. Smith||Socialist||1914||5.80%|
|Rhode Island||Ken Block||Moderate||2010||6.50%|
|South Carolina||Sampson Pope||People's||1894||30.40%|
|South Dakota||Tom Ayres||Farmer-Labor||1926||6.50%|
|Tennessee||A. L. Mims||People's||1894||9.90%|
|Texas||Ramsey Muniz||La Raza Unida||1974||5.60%|
|Utah||Merrill Cook||Independent Party||1992||33.50%|
|West Virginia||Walter B. Hilton||Socialist||1912||5.60%|
|Wyoming||Lewis C. Tidball||People's||1894||11.30%|
The November general election will take place on November 4, 2014.
U.S. House independent requirements
All 435 seats of the U.S. House will be elected in 2014. The requirements for independent candidates to gain ballot access vary across the 50 states. For a detailed table comparing the 50 states, see this page.
Three states do not require independent candidates to file a petition to gain ballot access -- only a filing fee is required. Those states are:
In seven states, independent candidates would require more than 10,000 valid signatures. Those states are:
- South Carolina (10,000 signatures)
- Montana (12,774 signatures)
- Illinois (14,050 signatures)
- Georgia (17,620 signatures)
- North Carolina (19,969 signatures)
- California (23,542 votes in the primary)
- Washington (35,201 votes in the primary)
The November general election took place on November 5, 2013.
The November general election took place on November 6, 2012.
Below is a selection of court cases relating to ballot access lawsuits.
Williams v. Rhodes
- See also: Williams v. Rhodes
Decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1968, Williams v. Rhodes held that state laws regulating the selection of presidential electors must meet the requirements of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Bullock v. Carter
- See also: Bullock v. Carter
Decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972, Bullock v. Carter held that the Texas primary filing fee system, which required the payment of fees as high as $8,900, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Court found that, under this system, "many potential office seekers lacking both personal wealth and affluent backers are, in every practical sense, precluded from seeking the nomination of their chosen party, no matter how qualified they might be and no matter how broad or enthusiastic their popular support."
Lubin v. Panish
- See also: Lubin v. Panish
Lubin v. Panish, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1974, held that, absent alternative means of ballot access, states cannot require indigent candidates to pay filing fees they cannot afford. To do so violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as the rights of expression and association guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Storer v. Brown
- See also: Storer v. Brown
Storer v. Brown, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1974, upheld as constitutional a California law forbidding ballot access to independent candidates who had been registered with a qualified political party within one year prior to the immediately preceding primary election. The ruling also established a test to gauge the level of burden imposed by signature requirements: if the number of signatures required is divided by the number of eligible signers and the resulting percentage is greater than five percent, the requirement is likely unconstitutional.
Illinois v. Socialist Workers Party
Decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1979, the ruling in Illinois State Board of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party rendered unconstitutional an Illinois statutory requirement that new political parties and independent candidates for elections in political subdivisions (specifically, Chicago) gather more than the number of signatures required for elections for statewide office.
Anderson v. Celebrezze
- See also: Anderson v. Celebrezze
Anderson v. Celebrezze, a case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1983, held that Ohio's early filing deadline for independent presidential candidates violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, placing an unconstitutional burden on the voting and associational rights of supporters of independent presidential candidates.
Norman v. Reed
- See also: Norman v. Reed
Decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1992, Norman v. Reed held that it was unconstitutional for the state of Illinois to require a new political party and its candidates to gather more than 25,000 signatures (the threshold for statewide office) to participate in elections for offices in political subdivisions. The ruling was, in part, a reaffirmation of the Court's earlier decision in Illinois State Board of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party.
U.S Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton
- See also: U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton
U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton was a 1995 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court decided against U.S. Term Limits, ruling that states cannot impose qualifications for prospective members of Congress stricter than those specified in the Constitution. The decision invalidated Congressional term limits provisions of 23 states.
Find your state information
Click the state below to find specific detailed information about candidate ballot access information.
- Seattle Weekly, "No Rock Party, But Ballots Still Provide Happiness," June 22, 2010
- Based on research conducted by Ballotpedia staff in October-December 2013. This included phone calls to the 50 states and analysis of the state political party websites.
- Gallup, "In U.S., Perceived Need for Third Party Reaches New High," October 11, 2013
- Ballot Access News "December 2013 Ballot Access News Print Edition," December 31, 2013
- Richard Winger, Ballot Access News January 2014 Print Edition, Volume 29, Number 9
- Justia.com "Williams v. Rhodes - 393 U.S. 23 (1968)," accessed December 26, 2013
- Justia.com "Bullock v. Carter - 405 U.S. 134 (1972)," accessed December 26, 2013
- Frontline "The Constitution and Campaign Finance: A Legal Movement for Change," accessed December 26, 2013
- Justia.com "Lubin v. Panish - 415 U.S. 709 (1974)," accessed December 26, 2013
- Justia.com "Storer v. Brown - 415 U.S. 724 (1974)," accessed April 1, 2014
- Justia.com "Illinois State Bd. of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party - 440 U.S. 173 (1979)," accessed December 26, 2013
- Justia.com "Anderson v. Celebrezze - 460 U.S. 780 (1983)," accessed December 26, 2013
- Oyez Project - U.S. Supreme Court Media - IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law "Anderson v. Celebrezze," accessed December 26, 2013
- Justia.com "Norman v. Reed - 502 U.S. 279 (1992)," accessed December 27, 2013
- Justia.com "U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton - 514 U.S. 779 (1994)," accessed December 27, 2013