By Jarrett Renshaw
(Reuters) – For third-party U.S. presidential candidates, getting on state ballots is challenging and expensive, thanks to a patchwork of U.S. laws designed by Republicans and Democrats, the dominant parties which control statehouses nationwide.
In many cases, outsider challengers can seek to qualify either as an independent candidate or a candidate from a minor party, though not all states have multiple options. Conversely, Democratic and Republican candidates automatically get on ballots due to state laws that reward parties for voter support during previous elections.
Here is a summary of states with the most cumbersome ballot access laws, according to experts, including Richard Winger, co-editor of the newsletter Ballot Access News.
To qualify as a minor party, an organization must collect 75,000 signatures from residents who are willing to switch parties or register for the first time.
An independent candidate must collect some 219,000 signatures – the most of any state – over a 105-day stretch that starts in April.
In 2020, then-Governor Andrew Cuomo led an effort to modify the state’s ballot access law that changed the definition of a pre-qualified party, taking the Libertarian, Green and Independence parties off the ballot.
The petition requirement tripled to 45,000 signatures – including at least 500 in half of the state’s 26 congressional districts, but the six-week petitioning period remained the same.
Independent candidates must collect 113,151 signatures over a 70-day stretch that begins on May 13. Voters who participated in the Republican or Democratic presidential primary election, held on May 5, are disqualified from signing a petition.
A minor party must get 81,000 signatures over a 75-day stretch.
Last year, a federal judge blocked a 119-year-old state law that required independent and minor parties to collect the signatures on paper. The ruling is on hold while the case in under appeal.
An independent candidate must collect 36,944 signatures – or 2% of the vote count for secretary of state – by July 1. The 2% requirement is tied with Wyoming as the highest percentage of a previous election tally in the country.
There is only one way to get on the ballot
An independent candidate must collect 7,948 signatures by Aug. 1 and register in each of the state’s 55 counties where they want to collect signatures.
An independent candidate needs to collect some 43,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot 90 days before the general election.
The path for a minor party requires fewer signatures at 34,116, but they must be submitted a whole year prior to the election.
An independent candidate needs 145,040 signatures to get on the state’s presidential ballot.
A minor party doesn’t require any signatures, but their national committee must be recognized by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which has only recognized eight parties’ national committees.
A minor party seeking to qualify for Maine’s presidential ballot must collect 5,000 signatures from residents willing to ditch their current party registration or register for the first time. Only a handful of states require residents to switch parties.
No Labels and Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows clashed after Bellows, a Democrat, issued a letter to residents who signed the No Labels paperwork to advise them that they had switched parties. About 800 Maine voters rescinded their enrollment after the letter was issued, according to the state.
Despite that, No Labels officially qualified for the state’s ballot earlier this month.
An independent candidate must collect between 4,000 and 5,000 signatures to be on the ballot.
(Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Heather Timmons and Jonathan Oatis)