State Laws Regarding Presidential Ballot Access for the General Election

October 2016

SUMMARY: STATE LAWS REGARDING PRESIDENTIAL BALLOT ACCESS FOR THE GENERAL ELECTION

This document provides a summary of the laws in each state relevant to the placement of a candidate for president on the general election ballot, and the requirements for a presidential candidate to run as a write-in candidate. Generally a presidential candidate nominated by a political party that meets certain criteria is placed on the general election ballot. This criteria is often based on a threshold number of votes cast at a recent election for a particular office or offices. A number of states provide an alternative mechanism for an organization to qualify in order to nominate candidates, for example by filing a petition or having a certain number of voters affiliated with the organization. Additionally, all states have a procedure for independent candidates, and in some cases individual presidential candidates of a political organization, to obtain ballot access. Most states also permit a presidential candidate to be a write-in candidate, and many of these states require that the candidate file a notice prior to the election. 

The summary for each state includes the timeframes for certifying the names of the candidates for president and vice-president and the names of the presidential electors; the requirements for a political party to be eligible to nominate a presidential candidate; the number of signatures required on a petition in order for a presidential candidate to obtain ballot access; a description of any additional ballot access methods where applicable; and the timeframes required for filing a notice in order to be a write-in candidate for president. 

It is important to note that the information in this document is based on a NASS review of relevant state ballot access requirements. This document is intended to provide a general overview of these requirements. It is not intended as an interpretation of those laws, or as a procedure guide or manual for political parties or prospective candidates with regard to presidential ballot access. States have a variety of filings and other requirements pertaining to political parties, presidential candidates, presidential electors, and petitions. Additionally, ballot access laws may change at any time based on new state laws and/or court decisions. Candidates and political parties should contact the relevant state election office and/or legal counsel for information on the specific rules and requirements for each state. Additionally, where political parties nominate a candidate, the nomination process varies greatly based on the state, the legal status of each party, and the rules and procedures of each party. Individuals should contact the political parties for information on the party nomination process.