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Ballot access requirements for political candidates in Washington

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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 Washington. 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 Washington. 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.

Washington utilizes a blanket primary system. Washington state voters passed Initiative 872 in 2004 establishing a single primary for all candidates. The top two vote-getters -- regardless of party -- advance to the general election. The Ninth Circuit struck down the initiative in July 2005, but the Supreme Court ruled on March 18, 2008 in Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party et al. that Initiative 872 was at least facially constitutional (that is, under a plain reading of the law, the initiative was constitutional, regardless of the law's effects) and could go into effect.[1]

On January 22, 2010 the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian parties filed amended complaints against the initiative, which were heard before a federal court in November 2010. In January 2011, Judge John Coughenour upheld the law, rejecting arguments that the system confuses voters who could interpret a candidate's party preference as an official endorsement by the party.[2]

Democrats and Libertarians filed separate requests asking the United States Supreme Court to hear an appeal. On October 1, 2012, the court announced it would not hear the challenge.[3]

Year-specific dates

2015

See also: Washington elections, 2015

There are no regularly scheduled state executive, state legislative or congressional elections in Washington in 2015.

2014


Political parties

See also: List of political parties in the United States

As of February 2015, the two largest political parties in Washington were the Republican and Democratic parties. The top-two primary system, however, is a nonpartisan primary, which allows candidates to select any party preference to appear next to their names on the ballot.

Party Website link By-laws/platform link
Republican Party Official party website Party platform
Democratic 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. Washington does allow candidates to identify in this way. A total of 25 states allow candidates to use political party designations in non-presidential elections.[5]

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.[6]

Process to establish a political party

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Chapter 29A.80 of the Washington Election Code

In Washington, the top-2 primary system allows candidates to list any party as the party that they prefer. Thus, minor parties and minor party candidates are not required to conduct conventions or collect signatures to qualify for the ballot. Washington state law no longer dictates how political parties conduct their nominations, and the parties may decide themselves how to conduct their nominations. A "major political party" is defined as a political party whose nominees for president and vice president received at least 5 percent of the total vote cast at the last presidential election. A "minor political party" is a political organization other than a major political party.[7][8][9]

Statutory requirements
Each political party organization may adopt rules governing its own organization and the non-statutory functions of that organization.[10]

However, there are statutory requirements for the organization of the party's state committee. They include the following:

  • The state committee of each major political party consists of one committeeman and one committeewoman from each county elected by the county central committee at its organization meeting. It must have a chair and vice chair of opposite sexes.
  • This committee shall meet during January of each odd-numbered year for the purpose of organization at a time and place designated by a notice mailed at least one week before the date of the meeting to all new state committeemen and committeewomen by the authorized officers of the retiring committee.
  • At its organizational meeting, the committee shall elect its chair and vice chair, and such officers as its bylaws may provide. The committee will also adopt bylaws, rules, and regulations, which may stipulate the following:
  1. Call conventions at such time and place and under such circumstances and for such purposes as the call to convention designates. The manner, number, and procedure for selection of state convention delegates is subject to the committee's rules and duly adopted regulations;
  2. Provide for the election of delegates to national conventions;
  3. Provide for the nomination of presidential electors; and
  4. Perform all functions inherent in such an organization.[11]

Process to become a candidate

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Chapter 29A.24 of the Washington Election Code

A candidate who desires to have his or her name printed on the ballot for election to an office other than president must complete and file a declaration of candidacy. The candidate must:

  • declare that he or she is a registered voter within the jurisdiction of the office for which he or she is filing, and the address at which he or she is registered
  • indicate the position for which he or she is filing
  • state a party preference, if the office is a partisan office
  • indicate the amount of the filing fee accompanying the declaration of candidacy (the candidate may also indicate that he or she is filing petition in lieu of the filing fee)
  • sign the declaration of candidacy, stating that the information provided on the form is true and swearing or affirming that he or she will support the constitution and laws of the United States and the constitution and laws of the state of Washington[12]

The filing period for candidates begins the Monday two weeks before Memorial Day and ends the following Friday in the year in which the office is scheduled to be voted upon. Candidates must also submit the declaration of candidacy to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission within one business day after the filing period has ended.[13][14]

A filing fee equal to 1 percent of the annual salary of the office at the time of filing must accompany the declaration of candidacy for any office with a fixed annual salary of more than $1,000.

A candidate who lacks sufficient assets or income at the time of filing may submit with his or her declaration of candidacy a filing fee petition. The petition must contain signatures from registered voters equal to the number of dollars of the filing fee.

For informational purposes, filing fees and signature requirements for 2014 are provided in the table below.

2014 filing fees for candidates
Office Annual salary (2014) Filing fee (1% of annual salary) Signature requirements in lieu of filing fee
Governor $166,891 $1668.91 1,669
Lieutenant Governor $97,000 $970.00 970
Secretary of State $116,950 $1169.50 1,170
Treasurer $125,000 $1250.00 1,250
Attorney General $151,718 $1517.18 1,517
State House and State Senate $42,106 $421.06 421

For write-in candidates

Any person who desires to be a write-in candidate and have his or her votes counted at a primary or general election must file a declaration of candidacy with the Washington Secretary of State and the Washington Public Disclosure Commission no later than 18 days before a primary or general election. A declaration of candidacy for a write-in candidate must be accompanied by a filing fee or a filing fee petition with the required signatures (fee amounts and signature requirements are the same as those stated above.[15][16]


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 Washington.

Format requirements

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Chapter 29A.24.101 of the Washington Election Code

In lieu of paying a filing fee, candidates can submit a filing fee petition with the required signatures equivalent to the dollar amount of the filing fee for the specific office. The petition must be in substantially the following form:

(FILING FEE PETITION FOR CANDIDATES)

We, the undersigned registered voters of (the state of Washington or the political subdivision for which the nomination is made), hereby petition that the name of (candidate’s name) be printed on the official primary ballot for the office of (insert name of office).[17][18]

The relevant statutes do not stipulate clearly any information on petition challenges or circulator requirements.

Campaign finance

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Chapter 42.17A of the Washington Election Code (Campaign Disclosure and Contribution)

In Washington, a person becomes a candidate when he or she raises or spends money, reserves space or buys advertising, authorizes someone else to take one of these actions, makes a public announcement or files a declaration of candidacy form.[19]

Every candidate's committee must file a statement of organization with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. The statement must be filed within two weeks after organization or within two weeks after the date the committee first has the expectation of receiving contributions or making expenditures in any election campaign, whichever is earlier.[20]

A political committee organized within the last three weeks before an election and having the expectation of receiving contributions or making expenditures during and for that election campaign must file a statement of organization within three business days after its organization or when it first has the expectation of receiving contributions or making expenditures in the election campaign.[20]

Statement of Organization

The statement of organization must include:[20]

  • the name and address of the committee
  • the names and addresses of all related or affiliated committees or other persons, and the nature of the relationship or affiliation
  • the names, addresses, and titles of its officers; or if it has no officers, the names, addresses, and titles of its responsible leaders
  • the name and address of its treasurer and depository
  • a statement indicating whether the committee is a continuing one
  • the name, office sought, and party affiliation of each candidate whom the committee is supporting or opposing, and, if the committee is supporting the entire ticket of any party, the name of the party
  • the ballot proposition concerned, if any, and whether the committee is in favor of or opposed to such proposition
  • What distribution of surplus funds will be made in the event of dissolution.
  • the street address of the place and the hours during which the committee will make available for public inspection its books of account and all reports filed
  • such other information as the commission may by regulation prescribe
  • the name, address, and title of any person who authorizes expenditures or makes decisions on behalf of the candidate or committee
  • the name, address, and title of any person who is paid by or is a volunteer for a candidate or political committee to perform ministerial functions and who performs ministerial functions on behalf of two or more candidates or committees

Organization requirements

Each candidate, within two weeks after becoming a candidate, and each political committee, at the time it is required to file a statement of organization, must designate and file with the commission the name and address of one legally competent individual, who may be the candidate, to serve as a treasurer.[21]

Each candidate and each political committee must designate and file with the commission and the appropriate county elections officer the name and address of not more than one depository for each county in which the campaign is conducted in which the candidate's or political committee's accounts are maintained and the name of the account or accounts maintained in that depository on behalf of the candidate or political committee.[22]

Reporting requirements

Each candidate or political committee must file with the commission a report of all contributions received and expenditures made at various intervals throughout the election cycle. A candidate must submit the following forms throughout the election cycle:

  • Form F1 (Personal Financial Affairs Statement): This form is used to report the candidate's sources of income, real estate transactions, bank accounts, stocks, debts owed, business holdings and business customers. It is due within two weeks of becoming a candidate.[23]
  • Form C1 (Candidate Registration): This form indicates office sought, reporting option, committee officers, treasurer's name, and time and place for public inspection of records. It is due within two weeks of becoming a candidate.[23]
  • Form C3 (Cash Receipts): This form is used to report names of contributors, amounts, addresses, occupations, and employers. All monetary contributions must be deposited within five business days of receipt. A C-3 form must be filled out for each deposit. Prior to June 1, C-3 is due monthly; after June 1, C-3 reports are due weekly on Monday.[23]
  • Form C4 (Campaign Summary Report): This form is used to report total contributions and expenditures for a defined period and the entire campaign. This form is due with an initial C-1 report if contributions were received or expenditures made prior to registration and on the 10th of each month covering the proceeding months activity through June 10th of the election year.[23]

Contribution limits

For informational purposes, the term per cycle means the period from January 1 after the date of the previous general election for the office through December 31 after the upcoming general election for the office. The term per election means per each primary, general, or special election for that office.[24]

During the 21 days before the general election, no contributor may donate over $50,000 in the aggregate to a candidate for statewide office, or over $5,000 in the aggregate to a candidate for any other office or to a political committee. This includes contributions to a party committee, as well as a candidate's personal contributions to his or her own campaign.[24]

At the beginning of each even-numbered calendar year, the commission may increase or decrease the dollar amounts of contribution limits based on changes in economic conditions as reflected in the inflationary index. The commission may revise, at least once every five years but no more often than every two years, these contribution limits. Contribution limits are detailed in the table below. The contributor type is noted in the first column. The receipt type is noted in the first row.[25]

Contribution limits by contributor
State party County or LD party committee Caucus political committee (House or Senate) Candidate committees PACs, unions, corporations, etc. Individuals
Statewide Executive Candidate Committee $0.95 per Reg. Voter per cycle $0.50 per Reg. Voter per cycle (Joint Limit) $0.95 per Reg. Voter per cycle Prohibited $1,900 per election $1,900 per election
Legislative Candidate Committee $0.95 per Reg. Voter per cycle $0.50 per Reg. Voter per cycle (Joint Limit) $0.95 per Reg. Voter per cycle Prohibited $950 per election $950 per election

Election-related agencies

Figure 1: This is the Declaration of Candidacy Form.
See also: State election agencies

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

  • Washington Secretary of State
Why: This agency provides and processes nominating petitions and declaration of candidacy forms.
520 Union Avenue SE
Olympia, WA 98501-1429
Telephone: 360.902.4180
Toll-free: 1.800.448.4881
TDD/TTY: 1.800.422.8683
Website: http://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/
Email: elections@sos.wa.gov

Washington State Public Disclosure Commission

Why: This agency provides and processes campaign finance reporting forms.
711 Capitol Way #206
P.O. Box 40908
Olympia, WA 98504-0908
Phone: 360-753-1111
Website: http://www.pdc.wa.gov/

Counties

See also: Counties in Washington

A candidate must file a number of documents with the elections office in his or her home county. Individual county contact information can be found below.

Term limits

State executives

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

There are no provisions specifying any state executive term limits in Washington.

State legislators

See also: State legislatures with term limits

There are no term limits for Washington state legislators.

Congressional partisanship

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

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

Congressional Partisan Breakdown from Washington
Party U.S. Senate U.S. House Total
     Democratic Party 2 6 8
     Republican Party 0 4 4
TOTALS as of April 2015 2 10 12

State legislative partisanship

Portal:State legislatures

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

State Senate

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 24
     Republican Party 25
Total 49

State House

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 51
     Republican Party 47
Total 98


Recent news

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See also

External links

Official state and federal links

Forms

Other information

References

  1. Washington State Grange v. Republican Party
  2. California Independent Voter Network,, "Washington State open primary ruling helps weaken possible legal challenges to California's Prop 14," January 21, 2011
  3. KNDO,, "Top 2 Primary Voting System upheld in Supreme Court," October 1, 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Washington Secretary of State, "Washington State Election Calendar," accessed November 6, 2013
  5. Washington Secretary of State, "Top 2 Primary: FAQs for Candidates," accessed December 4, 2013
  6. E-mail consultation with ballot access expert Richard Winger in January 2014.
  7. Washington Secretary of State, "Top 2 Primary System FAQ," accessed March 7, 2014
  8. Washington Election Code, "Chapter 29A.04.086," accessed March 13, 2014
  9. Washington Election Code, "Chapter 29A.04.097," accessed March 13, 2014
  10. Washington Election Code, "Chapter 29A.80.010," accessed March 7, 2014
  11. Washington Election Code, "Chapter 29A.80.020," accessed March 7, 2014
  12. Washington Election Code, "Chapter 29A.24.031," accessed March 7, 2014
  13. Washington Election Code, "Chapter 29A.24.050," accessed March 10, 2014
  14. Washington Election Code, "Chapter 29A.24.070," accessed March 10, 2014
  15. Washington Election Code, "Chapter 29A.40.070," accessed March 10, 2014
  16. Washington Election Code, "Chapter 29A.24.311," accessed March 10, 2014
  17. Washington Election Code, "Chapter 29A.24.101," accessed March 11, 2014
  18. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  19. Washington Public Disclosure Commission, "The State Executive and Legislative Candidates Reporting Requirements," accessed March 10, 2014
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Washington Election Code, "Chapter 42.17A.205," accessed March 10, 2014
  21. Washington Election Code, "Chapter 42.17A.210," accessed March 11, 2014
  22. Washington Election Code, "Chapter 42.17A.215," accessed March 11, 2014
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 Washington Public Disclosure Commission, "Required Forms for Legislative and Executive Candidates," accessed March 11, 2014
  24. 24.0 24.1 Washington Public Disclosure Commission, "Contribution Limits for Candidates," accessed March 11, 2014
  25. Washington Election Code, "Title 42.17A.125," accessed April 9, 2014