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The Voter’s Speakeasy featuring unbiased reporting and insight into life at Project Vote Smart from our staff, interns, and volunteers.

Ballot Access Laws

2016 September 20


When you head into the voting booth this November, you’ll be presented with a very specific slate of candidates. You’ll see many Democratic and Republican party candidates for various offices, but you also may see a selection of third party candidates, or even an unaffiliated candidate or two.

How did these candidates get on the ballot? Why are they in particular on the ballot, while others who may have been running don’t appear? For that matter, how do the candidates of the two major parties get on the ballot? The answers to these questions depend on your state’s ballot access laws.

Ballot access laws, which vary by state, set the requirements of what a candidate or party must do in order to appear on the election ballot.

The rules are a little different for parties and individual candidates- in most states, a party can achieve ballot access for itself, ensuring ballot space for its entire slate of nominees. This is part of what can make a major party (or any party with access) attractive to office seekers.

Typically, for a party to receive this automatic ballot access for their candidates they must either have a certain number of people registered to their party, or have had one of their candidates receive a certain percentage of the vote in a previous election.

In Alabama, a party must receive at least 20 percent of the vote in a general election to qualify for ballot access. Only two parties- Democratic and Republican- have ...

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“Blue Lives Matter” Bills

2016 September 14

On May 26, 2016, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law HB 953, or what media outlets are dubbing the “Blue Lives Matter” bill. The first of its kind, HB 953 prosecutes crimes against law enforcement and other first responders as hate crimes, increasing their penalties and punishments.

Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act

2016 September 09

 Widely considered the most significant financial regulatory reform since the Great Depression, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) instantly became a debated political battle in Washington.

State Legislatures’ Reactions to Mass Shootings

2016 September 02

 Gun control will continue to be an emotionally charged topic as mass shootings are a major driver of the conversation.

Campaign Finance: Free Speech, or Another Platform for Corruption?

2016 August 31

 Each year, as billions of dollars are funneled into American elections, more and more questions continue to rise regarding not only the legality of these financial contributions, but also the true intentions behind them.

Legislative Activities: Renewable Energy Sources

2016 August 26

Use of renewable energy sources is definitely a contentious issue in some states, with some passing legislation, and other states’ governors taking things into their own hands and signing agreements having to do with energy.

Daily Fantasy Sports Regulation in State Legislatures

2016 August 18

Daily fantasy sports is a concept that is as tricky to say as it is to understand.  It exists in a legal gray area that has remained unregulated for years.  Recently, after several scandals that brought widespread public attention, legislators have attempted to define and regulate the practice.  

To Fly or Not to Fly: Current Legislation on Gun Sales

2016 August 16

 One of the most contentious issues in 2016 has been the question of gun control.

Where Does the Death Penalty Stand in 2016?

2016 August 12

The death penalty has been a hotly debated topic for centuries, but just recently in 2016, it has for the first time in history become part of an official party platform - that of the Democratic Party, who supports abolishing it.

Vote Smart or Bust!

2016 August 11

A letter from Vote Smart President, Richard Kimball

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