Find ballot access information for your state here
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.
At Ballotpedia, we are researching the ballot access requirements for all candidates -- with specific details for non-major party candidates as well -- in all 50 states plus Washington D.C. This includes, among other things:
- How to create a political party
- How to qualify or the ballot as a candidate
- Petition requirements
- Campaign finance requirements
As of February 2014, there are 28 different qualified political parties in the United States.
For information on ballot access in a specific state, check out that state's ballot access requirements page by clicking on the map below.