Ballot access requirements for political candidates in Pennsylvania

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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 Pennsylvania. 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 Pennsylvania. 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 regularly scheduled state executive, state legislative or congressional elections in Pennsylvania in 2015.

2014


Political parties

See also: List of political parties in the United States

As of February 2015, there were three recognized political parties in Pennsylvania. These are listed in the table below. In order to be recognized as a political party by the state, the party must fulfill certain requirements (detailed below in "Process to establish a political party").[2]

Party Website link By-laws/platform link
Republican Party Official party website Party platform
Democratic Party National party website
Libertarian Party Official party website Party platform

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. Pennsylvania does allow candidates to identify in this way. A total of 25 states allow candidates to use political party designations in non-presidential elections.[3]

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.[4]

Process to establish a political party

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Article 8, Section 801 of the Pennsylvania Election Code

A political party is recognized as such by the state when "one of [its] candidates at the general election next preceding the primary polled in each of at least 10 counties of the state not less than two percent of the largest entire vote cast in each of said counties for any elected candidate, and polled a total vote in the state equal to at least two percent of the largest entire vote cast in the state for any elected candidate."[5]

Further, political parties whose "statewide registration is less than 15 percent of the combined statewide registration for all statewide political parties as of the close of the registration period immediately preceding the most recent November election" are classified as "minor political parties." Minor political parties are not eligible to participate in primaries and may only field candidates for the general election via nomination papers (see "Process to become a candidate" below for more information).[6]

Political parties whose statewide registration is 15 percent or greater of the combined statewide registration for all statewide political parties nominate their candidates for office via primary.[7]

The relevant statutes do not establish a process whereby groups of voters may petition to be recognized as a political party. Instead, any group of voters that does not qualify as a political party is considered a "political body." Candidates running for office as affiliates of a political body may designate the body in no more than three words on their nomination papers. Political body designations will appear on the ballot alongside the candidate's name.[5][8][9]

Process to become a candidate

Generally speaking, there are two types of petition forms that prospective candidates may need to file in order to gain access to the ballot.

  • Nomination petitions: These are the petition forms used by political party candidates.
  • Nomination papers: These are the petition forms used by independent and political party designation candidates.

For party candidates

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Article 9, Part (a) of the Pennsylvania Election Code

Party candidates for state office must file nomination petitions with the Pennsylvania Secretary of State. Signature requirements are established by statute and are summarized below (for more information regarding nomination petitions, see "Nomination petitions" below).[10][11]

Office Required signatures
U.S. Senator 2,000
Governor 2,000, including at least 100 signatures from each of at least 10 counties
Lieutenant Governor, Treasurer, Auditor General, Attorney General 1,000, including at least 100 signatures from each of at least 5 counties
U.S. Representative 1,000
State Senator 500
State Representative 300

Each candidate must file a Candidate Affidavit with his or her nomination petition. The affidavit must include the candidate's address, election district, the name of the office being sought, a statement verifying the candidate's eligibility for said office, and a statement verifying that the candidate will not "knowingly violate any provision of this act [i.e., the election code], or of any law regulating and limiting nomination and election expenses and prohibiting corrupt practices in connection therewith."[12]

The candidate must also pay a filing fee established by statute. Filing fees must be submitted with nomination petitions. Fees are summarized in the table below.[13]

Office Fee
U.S. Senator, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Treasurer, Auditor General, Attorney General $200
U.S. Representative $150
State Senator or Representative $100

In addition, a candidate for state office must file a Statement of Financial Interest with the State Ethics Commission. A copy of this statement must be attached to the nomination petition submitted to the Pennsylvania Secretary of State, as well.

In 2014, the state began offering a web service for party candidates to print personalized nomination petitions.[14][15]

For other candidates

Figure 1: This is the Nomination Form for Independent Candidates.

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Article 9, Part (b) of the Pennsylvania Election Code

Like party candidates participating in the primary, independent, minor political party and political body candidates for state office (including the Pennsylvania General Assembly) must submit Candidate Affidavits and Statements of Financial Interest to the Pennsylvania Secretary of State. Candidates must also pay the same filing fees as primary candidates. Independent, minor party and political body candidates must also file nomination papers (not to be confused with the nomination petitions party candidates participating in the primary must complete). Candidates filing nomination papers must obtain signatures from electors of the district equal to at least 2 percent of the largest entire vote cast for an elected candidate in the last election within the district. For more information regarding nomination papers, see "Nomination papers" below.[16]

For write-in candidates

Pennsylvania does not require write-in candidates to file paperwork in order to have their votes tallied.[17]

Events

2015

On February 18, 2015, State Senator Mike Folmer (R) introduced SB 465. If enacted, the bill would make the petition signature requirements for independent candidates the same as those for major political party candidates (see above for information regarding current signature requirements). In addition, the bill would permit political parties who register between one-twentieth of 1 percent and 15 percent of voters to nominate candidates by convention.[18]

According to Ballot Access News, the bill was sponsored by five Democrats and five Republicans. The bill was also introduced in the previous session of the state legislature, but it failed to gain any traction at that time.[18]

Petition requirements

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

The form of all petitions for candidates is prescribed by the Secretary of State.

Nomination petitions

Each page of a nomination petition contains these three basic components:[19]

  • Preamble: Includes information about the candidate, such as the candidate's name, occupation and residence, office being sought, and the party affiliation of the signers
  • Signatures of electors: Each person who signs a nomination petition must include the following information:
    • Signature
    • Printed name
    • Address of residence
    • Date of signature
  • Affidavit of circulator: Each page must include an affidavit of the circulator. The circulator must include his or her address and must affirm the following information:
    • The circulator is a qualified elector of the state.
    • The circulator is a registered and enrolled member of the political party designated in the petition.
    • The signers of the petition signed with full knowledge of the petition's contents.
    • Each signer signed on the date that the signer indicated.
    • To the best of the circulator's knowledge, the signers are qualified electors enrolled in the party designated in the petition and are residents of the county in which signatures are being collected.

Nomination petitions must be circulated and filed between the 13th Tuesday and the 10th Tuesday preceding the primary election (e.g., in 2014, between February 18 and March 11).[19]

On February 8, 2014, the Secretary of State's office announced that it was re-designing nomination petition forms. As a result, circulators no longer have to affirm that they live in a particular electoral district of the state, though circulators must still affirm that they are state residents. This change was made in response to a lawsuit filed in November 2013 challenging the district residency requirement. The lawsuit has since been voluntarily dismissed.[20]

Nomination papers

Each page of a nomination paper must include these four basic components:[19]

  • Preamble: Includes the name of the minor political party or political body making the nomination and the county of the signers.
  • Candidate information: Includes the name, address, and occupation of the candidate being nominated
  • Signatures of electors: Each person who signs a nomination paper must include the following information:
    • Signature
    • Printed name
    • Address of residence
    • Date of signature
  • Affidavit of qualified elector: Each page must include an affidavit of the qualified elector who circulated the nomination paper. The elector must include his or her address and affirm the following:
    • That he or she is a qualified elector of the state
    • That the signers of the nomination paper signed with full knowledge of the paper's contents
    • That the signers all reside in the same county
    • That each signer signed on the date indicated
    • That to the best of the elector's knowledge, the signers are qualified electors of the district designated in the nomination paper

Each page of a nomination paper submitted by a political body must also include the names and addresses of the political body's Committee to Fill Vacancies. The Committee must include at least three and no more than five members.[19]

Nomination papers must be circulated and filed between the 10th Wednesday preceding the primary and August 1 of each year (e.g., in 2014, between March 12 and August 1).[19]

Campaign finance

Candidates must file regular campaign finance reports. A candidate may authorize a committee to accept contributions and make expenditures on his or her behalf, but is not required to do so. A candidate is not required to establish a separate financial account for campaign purposes.[21]

If a candidate committee is formed, it must have both a chairperson and treasurer (one person cannot serve both functions). Before a committee can receive contributions on behalf of a candidate, the committee must be authorized to do so in writing by the candidate. This authorization form (provided by the Pennsylvania Secretary of State) must be received by the appropriate elections official (i.e., the Pennsylvania Secretary of State for candidates for state office, including the Pennsylvania General Assembly) before the committee receives contributions. Any committee that receives contributions in aggregate of $250 or more must file a registration statement within 20 days after the date on which the committee receives such amount. Registration statements must include the following information:[21]

  1. the name, address and phone number of the committee
  2. the name, address and phone number of the committee's treasurer
  3. the name, address and phone number of the committee's chairman
  4. the name, address and relationship of affiliated or connected organizations
  5. the candidate's name and address
  6. the banks, safety deposit boxes or other repositories and their addresses used by the committee
  7. the proposed period of committee operation

If the amount of contributions, expenditures or liabilities exceeds $250 in a reporting period, the candidate or committee must file reports. If not, the candidate or treasurer of the committee must file a statement to that effect in lieu of a report.[21]

On forms prescribed by the Pennsylvania Secretary of State, candidates or committees must include the following in each report:[21]

  1. the full name, address, and occupation and name of employer for each person who has made one or more contributions to the candidate or committee within the reporting period in an aggregate amount or value greater than $250; the report must also note the amount and date of such contributions
  2. the full name and mailing address of each person who has made one or more contributions to the candidate or committee within the reporting period in an aggregate amount or value greater than $50; the report must also note the amount and date of such contributions
  3. the total sum of individual contributions made to the candidate or committee during the reporting period and not otherwise reported
  4. each expenditure, the date made, the full name and address of the recipient, and the purpose of the expenditure
  5. any unpaid debts or liabilities, including the nature and amount of each, date incurred, and full name and address of the person owed
  6. any unexpended balance of contributions or other receipts appearing since the last report filed

Candidates who do form committees are required to file separate reports from those of their campaign committees. All candidates and their authorized committees who are required to file reports with the Pennsylvania Secretary of State must also file copies of those reports with the counties in which they reside.[21]

Generally speaking, the following campaign finance reports must be filed: a 6th Tuesday Pre-Primary Report, a 2nd Friday Pre-Primary Report, a 30-Day Post-Primary Report, a 6th Tuesday Pre-Election Report, a 2nd Friday Pre-Election Report, a 30-Day Post-Election and an Annual Report.[22]

Contribution limits

There are no limits placed on campaign contributions in Pennsylvania.[23]

Election-related agencies

See also: State election agencies

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

Pennsylvania Secretary of State; Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation

Why: This agency oversees candidate filing processes.
210 N. Office Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120-0060
Phone: 717.787.5280
Website: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/
Email: RA-elections@state.pa.us

Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission

Why: This agency processes Statement of Financial Interests forms.
Physical and mailing address
PO Box 11470
Room 309, Finance Building
Harrisburg, PA 17108-1470
Phone: (717) 783-1610
Website: http://www.ethics.state.pa.us/

Counties

See also: Counties in Pennsylvania

A candidate must file a number of documents with the county elections office in his or her home county. Individual county contact information can be found below. To provide a link or information for the table below, please email us.

Term limits

State executives

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

State executive term limits are established in Article 4, Sections 3, 5 and 18 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The state executive term limits in Pennsylvania are as follows:

  • The governor may serve a total of two consecutive terms.[24]
  • The attorney general may serve a total of two consecutive terms.[25]
  • The treasurer may serve two consecutive terms and must wait four years before becoming eligible for the office of auditor general.[26]
  • The auditor general may serve a total of two consecutive terms.[25]

There were no Pennsylvania state executive officials who were term-limited in 2014.

State legislators

See also: State legislatures with term limits

There are no term limits placed on Pennsylvania state legislators.

Congressional partisanship

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

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

Congressional Partisan Breakdown from Pennsylvania
Party U.S. Senate U.S. House Total
     Democratic Party 1 5 6
     Republican Party 1 13 14
TOTALS as of April 2015 2 18 20


State legislative partisanship

Portal:State legislatures

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

Senate

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 19
     Republican Party 30
     Vacancy 1
Total 50

House

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 83
     Republican Party 120
Total 203

Recent news

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See also

External links

Official state and federal links

Forms

Other information

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Pennsylvania Department of State, "2014 Important Dates," accessed November 14, 2013
  2. Pennsylvania Secretary of State, "Pennsylvania Voter Registration Mail Application," accessed February 11, 2015
  3. Pennsylvania Department of State, "General Information about Running for Political Office," accessed December 4, 2013
  4. E-mail consultation with ballot access expert Richard Winger in January 2014.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Pennsylvania Election Code, "Article 8, Section 801," accessed January 15, 2014
  6. Pennsylvania Election Code, "Article 9, Section 912.2," accessed January 15, 2014
  7. Pennsylvania Election Code, "Article 9, Section 901," accessed January 15, 2014
  8. Pennsylvania Election Code, "Article 9, Section 952," accessed January 15, 2014
  9. Pennsylvania Election Code, "Article 10, Section 1003," accessed January 15, 2014
  10. Pennsylvania Election Code, "Article 9, Section 907," accessed January 15, 2014
  11. Pennsylvania Election Code, "Article 9, Section 912.1," accessed January 15, 2014
  12. Pennsylvania Election Code, "Article 9, Section 910," accessed January 15, 2014
  13. Pennsylvania Election Code, "Article 9, Section 913," accessed January 15, 2014
  14. Pennsylvania Department of State, "Running for Office," accessed January 23, 2014
  15. Ballot Access News, "Pennsylvania Department of State Now Has Electronic Petition Forms on Its Web Page," January 16, 2014
  16. Pennsylvania Election Code, "Article 9, Section 951(b)," accessed January 15, 2014
  17. Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition, "Independent and third party candidates will sue to have their votes counted," October 31, 2006
  18. 18.0 18.1 Ballot Access News, "Pennsylvania Ballot Access Bill Introduced," February 18, 2015
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 Pennsylvania Department of State, "General Information About Running for Public Office," accessed January 15, 2014
  20. Ballot Access News, "Pennsylvania Circulator Residency Victory," February 17, 2014
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 Pennsylvania Department of State, "Campaign Finance Reporting Law," accessed January 15, 2014
  22. Pennsylvania Department of State, "Election Calendar," accessed January 15, 2014
  23. National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Limits on Contributions to Candidates," updated October 2013
  24. Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, "Article 4, Section 3," accessed January 15, 2014
  25. 25.0 25.1 Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, "Article 4, Section 5," accessed January 15, 2014
  26. Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, "Article 4, Section 18," accessed January 15, 2014