Ballot access requirements for political candidates in Alabama

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This page contains extensive information about ballot access requirements for state and federal candidates running for elected office in the state of Alabama. Offices include the following:

This page contains information on specific filing dates for each election year, how to become a candidate, how to create a political party, campaign finance requirements, state agency contacts involved in the election process, and term limits in Alabama. Information on running for election as a presidential candidate or for county and municipal offices is not included.

Note: If you have any questions or comments about this page, email us.

Year-specific dates

2015

There are no scheduled state or federal elections in Alabama in 2015.[1]

2014

See also: Alabama elections, 2014

Political parties

See also: List of political parties in the United States

As of February 2015, Alabama officially recognized two political parties. To be officially recognized by the state, a political party's candidate for state office must receive at least 20 percent of the vote cast in the general election. The state does, however, allow parties to be recognized by only parts of the state. For example, the Alabama Libertarian Party gained ballot access in Jefferson County, Alabama for the 2014 elections, so they were able to nominate candidates for the Alabama State Legislature in voting districts within Jefferson County.[4][7][8]

Party Website link By-laws/platform link
Alabama Democratic Party Official Party Website Party by-laws
Alabama Republican Party Official Party Website Party by-laws

In some states, a candidate may choose to have a label other than that of an officially recognized party appear alongside his or her name on the ballot. Such labels are called political party designations. A political party designation would be used when a candidate qualifies as an independent, but prefers to use a different label. Alabama does not allow candidates to identify in this way. A total of 25 states allow candidates to use political party designations in non-presidential elections.[9]

The 11 states listed below (and Washington, D.C.) do not provide a process for political organizations to gain qualified status in advance of an election. Instead, in these states, an aspirant party must first field candidates using party designations. If the candidate or candidates win the requisite votes, the organization may then be recognized as an official political party. In these states, a political party can be formed only if the candidate in the general election obtains a specific number of votes. The number of votes required and type of race vary from state to state. Details can be found on the state-specific requirements pages.[10]

Process to establish a political party

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Title 17 of the Code of Alabama

The definition of a political party in Alabama is an organization of voters whose candidate for state office receives at least 20 percent of the total votes cast in the general election. If a party does not receive 20 percent of the total vote, its members must follow the requirements set forth in Title 17 of the Code of Alabama 1975 to gain ballot access. This process is outlined below.[11]

  1. The party seeking official recognition by the state must submit the party's emblem to the Alabama Secretary of State 60 days before the primary election. The emblem can be any graphic that provides a distinctive heading on a ballot, does not too closely resemble another party's emblem and is no more than one and half inches square.[12][13]
  2. After the party emblem has been filed, but before the primary election, the new party must hold a mass meeting or convention to nominate candidates. Public notice of the meeting must be given five days in advance, including directly notifying the county probate judge, throughout the county where the convention will be held.[12][14]
  3. After the meeting/convention, the new party must file a certificate of nomination with the secretary of state for each candidate nominated. These are due on the day of the primary election. Candidates of new parties will not be allowed access to the ballot if they ran in the primary election for another political party that same year.[12][15]
  4. With the certificates of nomination, a petition with signatures of registered voters equal to 3 percent of the votes cast for governor in the last general election must also be filed with the secretary of state.[12][16]
  5. A candidate of the new party must then receive 20 percent of the vote cast in the general election for the party to be recognized officially. If a candidate does not receive 20 percent of the vote, the party must start the process over again for the next general election. For an example of the number of signatures and votes this process requires, look to the table below.
Votes cast in 2010 gubernatorial election Number of signatures needed to gain ballot access Number of votes needed to be recognized officially by the state
1,486,182[17] 44,586 297,237

Process to become a candidate

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Title 17 of the Code of Alabama

There are four ways a candidate may gain ballot access: with an officially recognized political party, with a minor party seeking political party status, as an independent or as a write-in. Every candidate must submit a Statement of Economic Interests when he or she first files. Within five days of filing, every candidate must organize a campaign finance committee and file an Appointment of Principal Campaign Committee form with the Alabama Secretary of State. Only officially recognized political party candidates are allowed in the primary election. All other candidates run in the general election.[18][19][20][21]

Political party candidates

Political party candidates must be nominated by the party at the primary election. The candidate must file a declaration of candidacy with the state party chair 60 days before the primary election. The state party chair must then certify the names of primary election candidates with the Alabama Secretary of State no later than 5 p.m. 55 days before the primary election. A party candidate must pay a party filing fee. These fees are established by the parties.[22][23][24]

Minor party candidates

Minor party candidates are nominated at party meetings or conventions. Such meetings must be held before the primary election. The minor party must file certificates of nomination for each nominated candidate with the Alabama Secretary of State. These certifications are due on the day of the primary election.[12][25][15]

Independent candidates

An independent candidate must file a petition with the Alabama Secretary of State. The petition must contain the signatures of registered voters equal to 3 percent of the total vote cast for governor in the applicable electoral district in the last general election. For example, in the 2010 gubernatorial race, 1,486,182 votes were cast, meaning an independent candidate running for a statewide office would have had to collect 44,586 signatures.[26][15][17]

This petition must be filed by 5 p.m. on the day of the primary election. A candidate cannot run as an independent if he or she ran in the primary election of the same year.[15][26]

Write-in candidates

There are no filing requirements for write-in candidate. All write-in votes are counted.[27]


Petition requirements

Figure 1: This is a ballot access petition for independent candidates in Alabama.

In some cases, political parties and/or candidates may need to obtain signatures via the petition process to gain ballot access. This section outlines the laws and regulations pertaining to petitions and circulators in Alabama.

Format requirements

In Alabama, both the process to establish a new political party and the process to become an independent candidate require petitions. All petitions must have a statement explaining the reason for collecting signatures. For an independent candidate, that statement must include the name of the candidate, the date of the general election and the office sought.[28][29][30][31]

Signature requirements

Petitions must have numbered pages and space for signers to leave their name, residential address, county and city of residence, voting place and date of birth. That additional information is not required, however. A signature will be deemed valid as long there is sufficient information to determine its validity.[30]

All petition signatures must be gathered in person, but the code does not specify circulator requirements.[32] There are no residency requirements for circulators.

Campaign finance

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Title 17, Chapter 5 of the Code of Alabama

The campaign finance reporting process for candidates seeking state office is outlined below. Candidates seeking federal office must file with the Federal Election Commission. Reporting details for federal candidates are not included in this section.

Definitions

The following is a list of campaign finance terms.[33]

  • A candidate is an individual who has either filed the necessary paperwork with the Alabama Secretary of State to qualify as a candidate or else is an individual who has received contributions or made expenditures in excess of $1,000 in an effort to be elected to public office.
  • A contribution is a gift, subscription, loan, advance, deposit of money or anything of value, a payment, a forgiveness of a loan, a payment of a third party, payment of compensation for personal services or expenses on behalf of the candidate, or transfer of anything of value made for the purpose of influencing the result of an election. A contract or agreement to do anything included in the above list is also considered a contribution.
  • An expenditure is a purchase, payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, transfer, or gift of money or anything of value made for the purpose of influencing the result of an election. A contract or agreement to do anything included in the above list is also considered an expenditure.

Reporting requirements

Before campaign reporting can begin, the following two forms must be filed. Any candidate who receives $10,000 or more in contributions during an election cycle must file all forms and reports here.[34]

  • The Appointment of Campaign Committee form must be filed with the Alabama Secretary of State within five days of becoming a candidate. This form organizes a campaign finance committee for the candidate and lists the member who will serve on the committee. A candidate may serve as his or her own campaign finance committee, or he or she may appoint two to five people to serve. A candidate may also appoint a Designated Filing Agent, who will then be authorized to file all reports for the candidate.[34][35]
  • A Statements of Economic Interests must be filed with the Alabama Secretary of State at the same time an individual files to become a candidate. This form covers the previous year's finances. If a candidate already has a Statement of Economic Interests on file, he or she does not have to file it a second time.[34][36]

Candidates are are split into two groups: those who have reached the $1,000 threshold and those who have not. Those who have not reached that threshold are not required to file any campaign finance reports until they reach the threshold. Candidates who have exceeded the $1,000 threshold must report all contributions from a single source and all expenditures to a single recipient greater than $100. The required reports are outlined below.[34]

  • Annual Reports cover the campaign finances during the year preceding the election. These reports are due no later than January 31 of the succeeding year and are only required from campaign finance committees not already filing monthly reports for a candidate in a current election cycle.[34][37][38]
  • Monthly Reports cover all reportable transactions for each month and are due no later than the second business day of the month following the month covered in the report.[34][38]
  • Weekly Reports are filed once a week for the four weeks leading up to an election. In regards to these reports, a week is defined as running from Saturday to Friday. The first weekly report must include all reportable transactions that occurred since the most recently filed prior report. These reports are due on the Monday following the Friday covered in the report.[34][38]
  • Daily Reports are required from state legislative and state executive candidates whose campaign finance committees receive or spend $5,000 or more on any of the eight days prior to an election. Once that amount is reached, the candidate’s committee is required to file this report every day until the election. These are due each day by 11:59 p.m., including the Saturday and Sunday before the election.[34][38]
  • Major Contribution Reports are required if a candidate's campaign finance committee receives a contribution of $20,000 or more that is not already included on a monthly, weekly, or daily report. If it is not included on one of those reports, it must be filed on a Major Contribution Report and is due within two days of receiving the contribution.[34][38]

Duplicate reports are never required. If a candidate’s committee is required to file a daily report, then a weekly report does not have to be filed for the week before the election, and if a candidate’s committee is required to file a weekly report, a monthly report is not required, etc.[34][38]

Contribution limits

In addition to reporting requirements, candidates are subject to the following limitations:

  • A candidate may not begin raising funds until 12 months prior to the election in which he or she intends to be on the ballot, except when the Alabama State Legislature is in session. Candidates are, however, always allowed to fundraise within 120 days of a primary, primary run-off or general election, regardless of the state legislature. These restrictions do not apply to loans candidates make to their own committees or to expenditures. A candidate is also allowed to continue spending money when the Alabama State Legislature is in session.[34][39]
  • A candidate may only accept contributions for the following purposes:[34][39]
    • to influence the outcome of an election
    • to pay off a campaign debt
    • to pay all expenses associated with an election challenge
  • A candidate may spend campaign funds, including excess funds after the election, only for the following purposes:[34][39]
    • expenditures of the campaign
    • expenditures that are reasonably related to performing the duties of the office held (this does not include living expenses)
    • donations to educational, charitable or other organizations that are exempt from federal taxes
    • inaugural or transitional expenses
    • donations to a legislative caucus organization, as long as it does not operate as a political action committee
    • payments to political parties, including qualifying fees, tickets to party functions, party dues, and donations of up to $5,000 to the political party (independent and write-in candidates may pay similar expenses)
  • No candidate’s campaign committee can contribute to another candidate’s campaign committee unless the committees support the same candidate. In that case, a transferral of funds is allowed.[34][40]
  • State campaign committees cannot accept more than $1,000 in contributions from the campaign committee of a federal candidate.[34][40]
  • A candidate has only 120 days after an election to raise funds to pay off campaign debts.[34]

On May 20, 2013, Governor Robert Bentley signed SB 445 into law. The bill eliminated the state's $500 limit per election for direct corporate contributions to candidates. As a result, Alabama now has no limits in place on the size and source of campaign contributions.[41]

Election-related agencies

See also: State election agencies

Candidates running for office may require some form of interaction with the following agencies:

Secretary of State Elections Division:

Why: This agency oversees all candidate filing and reporting and all election procedures.
Secretary of State Office
Physical address: 600 Dexter Ave, Suite E-208, Montgomery, AL 36130
Mailing address: PO Box 5616, Montgomery, AL 36103-5616
Telephone: 334-242-7210
Toll free: 1-800-274-8683
Fax: 334-242-2444
http://www.sos.state.al.us/

Ethics Commission:

Why: This agency provides ethics guidelines for campaigning and lobbying and oversees ethics laws.
Physical Address: 100 North Union Street, Suite 104, Montgomery, AL 36104
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 4840, Montgomery, AL 36103-4840
Telephone: 334-242-2997
Fax: 334-242-0248
Email: info@ethics.alabama.gov
http://ethics.alabama.gov/

Term limits

Alabama state executives have term limits. These limits were established by Amendment 282 to Section 116 of Article V of the Alabama Constitution.

State executives

Portal:State Executive Officials
See also: State executives with term limits and States with gubernatorial term limits

The state executives with term limits in Alabama are as follows:[42]

State legislators

See also: State legislatures with term limits

There are no term limits placed on Alabama state legislators.

Congressional partisanship

Portal:Congress
See also: List of United States Representatives from Alabama and List of United States Senators from Alabama

Here is the current partisan breakdown of the congressional members from Alabama:

Congressional Partisan Breakdown from Alabama
Party U.S. Senate U.S. House Total
     Democratic Party 0 1 1
     Republican Party 2 6 8
TOTALS as of April 2015 2 7 9

State legislative partisanship

Portal:State legislatures

Here is the current partisan breakdown of members of the state legislature of Alabama:

State Senate

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 8
     Republican Party 26
     Independent 1
Total 35

State House

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 33
     Republican Party 72
Total 105


Recent news

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See also

External links

Official state and federal links

Forms

Other information

References

  1. Alabama Secretary of State, "2015 Election Information," accessed February 4, 2015
  2. Alabama Secretary of State Website, "2014 Scheduled Elections," accessed November 19, 2013
  3. AL.com, "Potential candidates face Feb. 7 qualifying deadline to run for office in 2014," January 2, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ballotpedia phone call with Alabama's Secretary of State Elections Division, September 6, 2013
  5. Ballotpedia email with Alabama's Secretary of State Elections Office on September 6, 2013
  6. Alabama Secretary of State, "FCPA Filing Calendar--2014 Election Cycle," accessed January 8, 2014
  7. Alabama Code, "Section 17-13-40," accessed January 7, 2014
  8. Ballot Access News, "Libertarian Party on the Ballot in Alabama’s Most Populous County, for 2014," December 3, 2013
  9. Alabama Secretary of State, "Petition for Ballot Access, Independent Candidate," accessed January 9, 2014
  10. E-mail consultation with ballot access expert Richard Winger in January 2014.
  11. Alabama Code, "Section 17-13-40," accessed January 7, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Alabama Secretary of State, "Minor Party/Third Party Ballot Access," accessed January 7, 2014
  13. Alabama Code, "Section 17-6-29," accessed January 7, 2014
  14. Alabama Code, "Section 17-13-50," accessed January 7, 2014
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Alabama Code, "Section 17-9-3," accessed January 7, 2014
  16. Alabama Code, "Section 17-6-22," accessed January 7, 2014
  17. 17.0 17.1 Alabama Secretary of State, "Primary/Primary Run-off/General Election Statistics-State of Alabama," accessed January 9, 2014
  18. Alabama Code, "Section 17-13-1," accessed January 7, 2014
  19. Candidate Filing Guide, "Chapter 1, Getting Started," accessed October 30, 2013
  20. Code of Alabama 1975, "Title 36, Chapter 25, Section 15," accessed October 30, 2013
  21. Code of Alabama 1975, "Title 17, Chapter 5, Section 4" accessed October 30, 2013
  22. Code of Alabama 1975, "Title 17, Chapter 5, Section 2" accessed October 30, 2013
  23. Alabama Code, "Section 17-13-5," accessed January 7, 2014
  24. Alabama Code, "Section 17-13-103," accessed January 7, 2014
  25. Alabama Code, "Section 17-13-50," accessed January 7, 2014
  26. 26.0 26.1 Alabama Secretary of State, "Independent Candidate Ballot Access," accessed January 7, 2014
  27. Alabama Code, "Section 17-6-28," accessed January 7, 2014
  28. Alabama Secretary of State, "Minor Party/Third Party Ballot Access," accessed January 7, 2014
  29. Alabama Code, "Section 17-6-22," accessed January 7, 2014
  30. 30.0 30.1 Alabama Secretary of State, "Independent Candidate Ballot Access," accessed January 7, 2014
  31. Alabama Code, "Section 17-9-3," accessed January 7, 2014
  32. National Voter Outreach, "Alabama: Independent Candidate Ballot Access (Statewide Office)," accessed January 9, 2014
  33. Code of Alabama 1975, "Section 17-5-2," accessed January 8, 2014
  34. 34.00 34.01 34.02 34.03 34.04 34.05 34.06 34.07 34.08 34.09 34.10 34.11 34.12 34.13 34.14 34.15 Alabama Secretary of State, "Candidate Filing Guide," accessed January 8, 2014
  35. Alabama Code, "Section 17-5-4," accessed January 8, 2014
  36. Alabama Code, "Section 36-25-15," accessed January 8, 2014
  37. Alabama Secretary of State, "FCPA Filing Calendar--2014 Election Cycle," accessed January 8, 2014
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 38.3 38.4 38.5 Alabama Code, "Section 17-5-8," accessed January 8, 2014
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 Alabama Code, "Section 17-5-7," accessed January 8, 2014
  40. 40.0 40.1 Alabama Code, "Section 17-5-15," accessed January 8, 2014
  41. Center for Competitive Politics, "2013 State Legislative Trends: Campaign Contribution Limits Increase in Nine States," accessed April 3, 2014
  42. Alabama Constitution of 1901, "Amendment 282 (to Section 116), accessed November 4, 2013