Ballot access for major and minor party candidates
Poll Opening and Closing Times
Absentee voting • Early voting
Open Primary • Closed Primary • Blanket Primary
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 December 2013, there are 27 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 206 total in the 50 states (and Washington D.C.). For example, the Democratic and Republican parties are recognized in all 50 states plus Washington D.C., which accounts for 102 of the 206 total parties. The 206 parties 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 their name on the ballot.
Three minor parties recognized in more than 10 states:
- Libertarian Party: 33 states
- Green Party: 19 states
- Constitution Party: 13 states
|Total State Affiliates for each Political Party|
|Alaskan Independence Party||1|
|American First Party||1|
|Delaware Independent Party||1|
|Independence Party of Minnesota||1|
|Independent American Party||3|
|Labor Party Party||1|
|Liberty Union Party||1|
|Natural Law Party||3|
|Oregon Independent Party||1|
|Oregon Progressive Party||1|
|Peace and Freedom Party||1|
|United Citizens Party||1|
|Vermont Progressive Party||1|
|Working Families Party||4|
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 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 91 agencies other than the FEC. Twenty-three 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 1,825 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?"|
The November general election will take place on November 4, 2014.
The November general election took place on November 5, 2013.
The November general election took place on November 6, 2012.
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
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 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.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Gallup "In U.S., Perceived Need for Third Party Reaches New High," October 11, 2013