Getting Your Name on the Ballot

12 Feb

I can bet that most of you have never run for office. Why would you? It’s a pain in the butt. If you’re lucky, you’ll get scrutinized by the media, but more likely, ignored altogether. So why are some people making it harder to even get on the ballot?

Well, the answer’s obvious–they want to stay in power. Your laughable attempt to actually get on the ballot might actually draw enough votes away from their candidate that they may lose to the real challenger. So the laws are set up in most American states that it’s real hard for third party candidates… or even worse, if you’re an independent candidate.

Since most of you have never gone through this process, let me explain. To get on the ballot for any position, you need to have a certain number of signatures on your petition. To give an example, in the great state of Arizona, if you’re part of a “registered political party,” you need 0.5% of total qualified signers residing in the district. Doesn’t sound like much… and it’s not. For my state house district, if you’re a Democrat or Republican, you need a minimum of 500 signatures and a maximum of 3,000. The reason for the range is that a number of signatures are thrown out as being invalid… so it’s always good to get twice the minimum number you need to run.

Thankfully, my party (Libertarian) made the “registered” bit, so since I’m thinking of running for the state house, that means I need 250 signatures and a maximum of 1,500. Why half as much? Because there are less registered Libertarians than those registered to the major parties. However, if you’re running as an independent, you need 0.5% of ALL qualified signers (from any party) within your district. Which means you would need 1,500 signatures… minimum; three times the number of the major parties.

Now you may be wondering, why am I concerned about ballot access? After all, I’m getting the great end of the deal, having to get half as many signatures as the Republican or Democrat, right? The problem is that Arizona is an anomaly. In most American states, third parties have to file as independents–forcing them to get three times as many signatures. Even in Arizona, candidates of the Green Party, the Constitution Party, and probably several others I’m not aware of, have to file as independent.

That doesn’t even start to describe the problem of actually getting signatures. Let’s face, the major parties have a lot more diehards that are willing to sign signatures, or they have the money to pay folks to get signatures. An R or D doesn’t have to worry about getting on the ballot. Third parties have VERY little money, the candidates are on their own, so they (or their friends) have to get those signatures themselves. Meanwhile, you’ve got a normal job, and normal commitments, so this becomes your side job. That’s just to get on the ballot–how badly do you want to actually win? Are you willing to go door-to-door and win enough votes? That’s now your job.

But… one thing at a time. First, let’s get on the ballot, and then we’ll worry about winning elections. I’ve gone through this before–and I think everyone should–just to understand the political process. But what do you think? Should you have to go through this just to get on the ballot? Is the rules a lot more lenient where you live? Let me know in the comments below!

One Response to “Getting Your Name on the Ballot”

  1. Michael February 15, 2021 at 12:17 am #

    Sound appaling. But hardly a surprise…

    Candidates in a UK Parliamentary Election must pay a deposit – currently £500. If they receive at least 5% of the votes their deposit is returned.

    In the 2017 General Election there were 1,568 candidates who lost their £500 deposit (47.5% of all candidates).

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