U.S. Senate ballot access laws by state 1

Later this week, the Indiana Elections Commission will hear challenges against Todd Young for what opponents say is a failure to meet Indiana’s ballot access laws. We covered the brief history of such ballot challenges last week.

We think Young will stay on the ballot, and he may in fact come out stronger on the other side. But this is only the start of the discussion. Lawmakers have already said that they will look at Indiana’s ballot access laws during the next legislative session.

So we decided to get ahead of the game and show you what the requirements are for U.S. Senate candidates in all 50 states. This was not an easy search, but it was made much easier by Richard Winger over at Ballot Access News.* Seriously, he’s the Lin-Manuel Miranda of ballot access. Special thanks also to Ed Feigenbaum at Indiana Legislative Insight who wrote a 1988 research paper on the topic that is so nerdy, I won’t even link to it here.

Our analysis shows that Indiana is one of 15 states that require a petition signed by voters and no filing fee. The signature requirements are sometimes flat (like Indiana’s 4,500 or Tennessee’s 25), and sometimes based on a percentage of the party results in a previous election. Michigan Republicans need 16,490 signatures to equal 1% of the Secretary of State vote in the previous election.

Twenty-six states have only a filing fee for Senate candidates, ranging from $75 in Hawaii to $20,000 in Arkansas. Fourteen of those states base the fee on a portion of the Senate’s $174,000/year salary.

Six states require a signature and a fee. Virginia, probably the most onerous state, requires a fee of $3,480 and 10,000 signatures. In Hawaii, you only need $75 and 25 friends. Aloha.

Finally, you have the four all-comers states — Colorado, Connecticut, North Dakota, and New York — that don’t require cash or John Hancocks.

U.S. Senate Ballot Access Laws By State

So is Indiana’s system too harsh? Too lenient? Just right? I’m sure everyone will have their own thoughts on that, but I have one major concern.

The signature process is a disaster. People sign the things not knowing what district they live in, or even whether they are registered to vote. County clerks’ offices have an unbelievably tedious job of checking the petitions against voter rolls and tallying the results. And by the time they get to the Secretary of State’s office, so many things could’ve gone wrong that a highly qualified candidate could be screwed.

So why not offer a secondary option for petitions that come up short? Candidates could pay a penalty of $100 or $500 for every name under 500 per district. So if a candidate were ruled 3 names short, they’d pay $1,500 and still be on the ballot. If some candidate were 100 names short, they’d have a a much bigger problem on hand.

I think Todd Young will be on the ballot in May, but if he somehow loses the challenge, every single Hoosier this side of Marlin Stutzman will lose along with him.

*Winger’s biggest concern over Indiana’s ballot access laws has to do with minor party and independent access to the General Election ballot. The signature requirements are very high, and we have the fifth-earliest signature deadline in the country. Indiana is one of only two states to have no statewide petition successes in the last 15 years. This may be worth a future post, but for now, everyone’s attention is squarely on Primary Election access.

Raw Data

State Fee? Amount Signatures? Amount
AK Y $100 N
AL Y $3,480 N
AR Y $20,000 (GOP); $12,000 (Dem) N
AZ N Y 2,764
CA Y $3,440 Y 65
DC N Y 1,000
DE Y $10,440 N
FL Y $10,440 N
GA Y $5,220 N
HI Y $75 Y 25
IA N Y 3,330
ID Y $250 Y 1,000
IL N Y 5,000
IN N Y 4,500
KS Y $1,740 N
KY Y $500 N
LA Y $600 N
MA N Y 10,000
MD Y $290 N
ME N Y 2,000
MI N Y 16,490
MN Y $400 N
MO Y $100 N
MS Y $300 N
MT Y $1,740 N
NC Y $1,740 N
NE Y $1,740 N
NH Y $100 N
NJ N Y 1,000
NM N Y 5,870
NV Y $500 N
OH Y $100 Y 1,000
OK Y $1,000 N
OR Y $150 N
PA Y $200 Y 2,000
RI N Y 1,000
SC Y $10,400 N
SD N Y 1,955
TN N Y 25
TX Y $4,000 N
UT Y $13,050 N
VA Y $3,480 Y 10,000
VT N Y 1,000
WA Y $1,740 N
WI N Y 2,000
WV Y $1,740 N
WY Y $200 N

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