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Ballot Access for Third Parties
2012.09.19 23:49:39

(With The Rocky Anderson Campaign)

By Tim Gatto with Ben Shaw

During radio show last night I had problems with the audio that were very suspicious. Every time my guest, Ben Shaw (who works with the Rocky Anderson campaign) tried to mention specific problems that the campaign faced on getting Anderson on the ballot in various States, the audio would become garbled to the point where it was very difficult to understand his speech. He would stop talking about these instances and the audio would clear up. This is the link to the show so you can hear it for yourself.

According the current election laws in various States, these are the number of signatures that are needed to get on the ballot in the following States:

Based on the number of signatures required

  • California--173.000
  • Texas- 49729 
  • North Carolina--85379
  • Georgia--50334
  • Oklahoma--43890

2nd Tier:

  • Michigan--32261
  •  Indiana--34195
  • Oregon--21804
  • Pennsylvania--20601
  • Illinois--25,000
  • Arizona--27000

Even the number of signatures is misleading as election officials check the validity of signatures, so the rejection rate can be as high as from 15-50 percent of the signatures. The number of possible errors is huge, for example: (1) Address on signature form does not match voter registration records if person signing petition moved and forgot to inform voter registrar of the move; (2) Person signing petition thought they were registered when they were not. So the actual number of signatures needed is much higher than the official number listed above.

 States with Early Deadline for signatures

  • California--January 3, 2012 (Took a law suit by ACLU to overturn it, but delayed signature gathering while lawsuit was in progress. The high number of signatures remained.
  •  Texas -Deadline was changed multiple times due to federal redistricting lawsuit. Court ended up moving the precinct conventions for the Democratic and Republican parties, to June which previously had marked the date when you could begin gathering signatures, but left our date as March 14, 2012, which was too late to hold our precinct conventions. So the Justice party had to be completed with its signature by the time most voters even knew there was going to be a primary election. The whole idea that you had to wait to begin signatures seems ridiculous. Plus, existing parties don't have to certify their candidates until after their national conventions in August September.

 Other factors which make it difficult for new parties to get on the ballot.

  • In half the states there is no procedure for a new political party to get on the ballot the first year. In most of these states, the Presidential candidate for a new party has to run as an independent, receive a certain percentage of votes of those who vote in election in order to qualify for the candidate's party to appear on the ballot. If the candidate doesn't receive enough votes, the candidate's party must go through the same process next election.
  •  In every state, the independent candidate must bear the cost of printing out signature forms and recruiting volunteers to go around the state and gather signatures. It takes time to recruit volunteers, which is problem because the deadlines for turning in the signatures are coming due at different times. So a national campaign like Rocky Anderson’s campaign has to shift resources around and determine which states to focus on first, which usually means focusing on the states with the least restrictive ballot access requirements. So if you don't have the resources to mount a big push in the "hard" states, then you will not be on the ballot in some of the states with the most popular and electoral votes.
  •  The election administration in all 50 states is administered by a Secretary of State in control of either the Democratic or Republican parties. While the clerks or low-level officials in the office may try to do their jobs, the policies in all 50 states at the highest levels of election administration is to keep competition from new parties and candidates to a minimum.
  •  In some states, the petitions must include only the signatures from the same county. So, if the signature gatherers set up a mall where people from multiple counties are shopping, they would have to keep multiple petitions, one for each county they are likely to encounter.
  •  Also, in addition to partisan Secretary of States challenging petitions, existing political parties can challenge the signatures.

 “As mentioned on our show, in Pennsylvania if a candidate's signatures are challenged by another party, then the candidates can be held personally liable. In 2008, Democrats challenged Ralph Nader's signatures in Pennsylvania and won a personal judgment against Ralph Nader and his V.P. candidate, where the two candidates were forced to pay a total of $80.000 out of their own bank accounts. This year, the Republicans challenged the signatures of the Libertarian and Constitution parties in Pennsylvania. The Constitution party candidate decided to end his ballot access effort in Pennsylvania because of his fear of a personal judgment against him” (Radio show 9/17/2012).

If a candidate can't reach the number of signatures needed, then he or she must submit the paperwork for being recognized as an official write-in candidate. If the write-in paperwork is not submitted, then if anyone writes-in the candidate name on election day,, that vote will not be counted. In addition, the candidate usually has to recruit a list of Presidential electors should a miracle happen and he or she were to win the popular vote for that state. The electors would then cast the vote for that state in the Electoral College when it meets in December. Also some states require signatures just to be a write-in candidate or charge a filing fee to be a write-in candidate.


  • The current ballot system assumes that any a candidate or new party will take 2 to 6 years before they gain a permanent place on  the ballot, which is referred to as a "ballot line".
  •  Because of the deadlines for signatures, the current system does not allow for any spontaneous political movements to arise. So if an incumbent President wanted to jail his opponents in February of an election year, it would be impossible for a new party to be created in time to nominate a candidate to oppose the incumbent.
  • The only exception to this rule would be if a billionaire like Ross Perot were to run and be able to spend millions to run. In most cases, a billionaire is not going to run on a program of changing the system. 


  • Voters need to wake up about why they have so few choices and become involved in creating more choices by promoting other political parties or independent candidates.
  • We need to have a uniform system of ballot access in all 50 states and abolish the crazy-quilt of differing, restrictive, and undemocratic system of ballot laws that we now have in the various states.

The preceding examples of the difficulties facing any new political party, or anyone trying to get on a ballot for that matter, show the relentless hostility that the Democrats and Republicans display towards anyone trying to work outside of the existing two-party system.

The two-party system is the way that those in power maintain their grip on the American political system. Remember, nowhere in The Declaration of independence or The Constitution does it say that the United States should operate on a two-party system.

Consider this; The United States has population in excess of three-hundred and fifty million people. This means that for all of the 350 million Americans in our nation, we have only, in real termsTWO POINTS OF VIEW FOR350 MILLION PEOPLE!

Two political parties for the third most populous nation on planet Earth! That is patently ridiculous! In a varied nation like ours, with people from every walk of life, we only have two views from which to vote for. Not only does this limit the political discourse because of only two parties, but both parties are basically corporately run political parties lead by the wealthiest one percent of Americans! Now before you discount what I have just said, read this:

The Center for Responsive Politics has crunched the numbers and released the results on its Open Secrets blog:

“About 47 percent of Congress, or 249 current members are millionaires. … In 2010, the estimated median net worth of a current U.S. senator stood at an average of $2.56 million,” according to the Center’s research.

 “Despite the global  economic meltdown  in 2008 and the sluggish recovery that followed, that’s up about 7.6 percent  from an estimated median net worth of $2.38 million  in 2009 … and up 13 percent from a median net worth of $2.27 million in 2008. … Fully 36 Senate Democrats, and 30 Senate Republicans reported an average net worth in excess of $1 million  in 2010.  The same was true for 110 House Republicans and 73 House Democrats.”

 “The vast majority of members of Congress are quite comfortable, financially, while many of their own constituents suffer from economic hardships,” said Sheila Krumholz at the Center For Responsive Politics.  “Few Americans enjoy the same financial cushions maintained by most members of Congress — or the same access to market-altering information that could yield personal, financial gains.” ABC NEWS

This is the reason that the two corporately-run political parties don’t want any significant amount of people voting outside of the two-party political system. Think about it. The Democrat and The Republican parties look out for their own, and that isn’t the majority of us. So the next time you vote, think about who’s interests you are voting for.




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