Indiana Ballot Access “Explained” 


How the Indiana Democratic and Republican Parties Defeat Competition Before Election Day

Originally posted 3/19/08

Over the last century, Indiana lawmakers have made ballot access for independent and minor party candidates increasingly more difficult. By repeatedly amending state election laws since 1933, Indiana legislators, comprised almost entirely of members of the Democratic and Republican parties, have erected barriers to ballot access that are now nearly insurmountable.

Gradual Erosion of Ballot Access for Independents and “Minor” Parties

Prior to 1933, for an independent or minor party candidate to run for a state or federal office in Indiana, state law required the submission of 500 signatures 20 days prior to the general election in November. Over the next 7 decades, the deadline for signature submission crept up to September 1st, then to July 15th. In 2001, Indiana Governor Frank O’Bannon signed SB 329, which moved independent and minor party candidate signature petition deadlines to June 30th. These latest moves deprived citizens of the opportunity to gather signatures over the summer months where it is easier to find large crowds in public places such as state and county fairs, summer festivals, family gatherings and, ironically, 4th of July parades.

At the same time lawmakers narrowed the signature-gathering window, they re-wrote the law to increase the number of signatures required for anyone other than Democratic or Republican candidates to be on the ballot. The current formula for the number of signatures is 2% of the total votes cast for Secretary of State in the previous general election. So while Indiana’s population only doubled from 1933 to 2001, the current number of signatures required for a minor party or independent candidate’s name to appear on the ballot for a state or federal office increased 64-fold to 32,741.

Minor party and independent candidates for local and county offices are subjected to the same signature submission deadlines and formula for number of signatures. For example, when I ran for office as a Green Party candidate for the 1st District seat on South Bend’s Common Council, I had to submit certified signatures from 1st District voters for my name to appear on the ballot. The number of signatures required was 2% of the total votes cast for Secretary of State in the 1st District. The local Green Party succeeded in getting the signatures needed for my name to be on the ballot; the irony is that if I had won, I would have been required to gather signatures again to run for the same office in the next election.

A minor party can gain statewide ballot access if it runs a candidate for Secretary of State and that candidate receives at least 2% of the vote in the general election. The minor party candidate for Secretary of State must submit the 30,000-plus signatures for their name to be on the ballot and if they succeed in garnering 2% of the vote, the minor party then has state-wide ballot access. This means minor party candidates can have their names appear on the ballot for any local, county, state or federal office, including US President without submitting thousands of signatures. The Libertarian Party is the only minor party to succeed in gaining statewide ballot access in Indiana, however, they accomplished this in 1996, prior to and most likely resulting in the most recent changes in Indiana ballot access law.

Separate and Unequal Rules for Ballot Access for Republicans and Democrats

Contrast the requirements for independent and minor party candidates to the “guidelines” set for Republican and Democratic candidates. To appear on an Indiana primary ballot for a state or federal office, Republican and Democratic candidates are required to submit only 4500 signatures,  500 from each of Indiana’s 9 congressional districts. For this year’s Indiana primary John McCain’s campaign operatives failed to submit the required number of signatures for his name to appear on the ballot. Furthermore, all the signatures were not submitted according to guidelines, however the Indiana Election Commission ruled that voters should not be denied an opportunity to vote for McCain due to “meaningless technicalities”.

This begs the question: why are there different rules in place between “major” and “minor” parties fielding candidates for offices in a democracy? The obvious answer is that the rules were written by two organizations fielding political candidates who have the financial resources and political connections to maintain their position of power. This is indeed a two-party system, those that have access to the ballots and voters and those that have not. The result of the disparity in ballot access means fewer choices for voters. Fewer choices means voters will less likely be able to vote for a candidate who most closely represents their convictions. Without an opportunity to connect their convictions to a candidate, voters will continue to disengage from the process and stay home on Election Day as the parties in power work to undermine democracy.

What you can do:

  • support ballot access petition drives for minor party and independent candidates.  Even if you do not intend to vote for that candidate, we need to let election officials, legislators, the judiciary and governor know that Hoosiers want more choices on the ballot.  Sign a minor party or independent candidate’s petition form and offer to get 10 of your friends to sign as well.  You can find out what candidates are petitioning for signatures at the County Voter Registration Office at the County City Building in St Joe County.  Stephen Bonney is an independent candidate for Indiana governor, for example, who needs 30,000+ signatures to get on the ballot for the November 2008 election.
  • Subscribe to Ballot Access News to get the latest information on ballot access issues nationwide; you can do an “Indiana” search for news specifically related to ballot access in Indiana
  • Write or call your legislator’s office and let them know directly that you want to see ballot access restrictions eased so there is equal access for all parties to the democratic process.  Ask them to write or sponsor bills to this effect.
  • Consider voting for a minor party candidate in the next election
  • Find out who the “write-in” candidates are for the next election.  Often these are candidates who were unable to gather enough signatures to get their names on the ballot but are still eligible to receive votes.  If you agree with their platforms, vote for them; you will need to fill in the “write-in” bubble for that office and write the candidate’s name on the line provided.  Remember only officially recognized “write-in” candidates are eligible to receive such votes.
  • If you vote for a “write-in” candidate, follow-up with the County Election Board to ensure they properly count write-in votes as the St Joe County Election board has a poor history in this regard.
  • Consider running as a minor party candidate for a local office.

 Democracy is not a spectator sport!


Ballot Access Video Idea 

originally posted 3/27/08

For a Republican or Democratic candidate’s name to appear on the Indiana ballot for state or federal office, including US President, that candidate must submit 4500 certified signatures of registered voters. Five hundred signatures must come from each of Indiana’s nine congressional districts.

By contrast, for an independent or minor party candidate’s name to appear on Indiana’s ballot for a state or federal office, including US President, that candidate must submit 32,741 certified signatures of registered voters.  Citizens wishing to serve in office as an independent or “minor” party candidate are subjected to a standard that is 700% higher than for Democratic and Republican candidates. Thus, the Democratic and Republican parties ensure their “major” party status by severely restricting access to the ballot, voters  and any federal matching campaign funds for independent and “minor” party candidates.

I am taking this newly-discovered information to the voters as I gather signatures for an independent candidate for state-wide office.   When I ask voters for their signatures to get this person’s name on the ballot, I inform them of the disparity for ballot access. Forty five hundred versus 32,000. The response has been near-universal shock and a readiness to sign the candidate’s ballot-access petition form. I intend to film my interactions with voters and their reactions to Indiana’s unfair ballot access laws.  This will be used to produce a Youtube video on this subject. Look for it here and on a web portal under construction by the local Green Party.


Eight Choices for Oreo Cookies: Only 2 for President?

originally posted 2/5/08

Green Party hopeful and former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, interviewed by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, makes powerful points about the stranglehold the current two parties have on our democracy.  Her experience in Congress revealed to her how the Democrats had become “no different than their Republican counterparts.”  Two of the examples McKinney cites are the Democratic party’s failure to support articles of impeachment against President GW Bush and Dick Cheney and Congress’ lack of action on both sides to address the continuing suffering of the victims of Hurricane Katrina.    As the two “major” parties become more similar, larger chunks of voters have become disillusioned and want no part of the electoral process.  Adding more choices to the ballot, notes McKinney is the only way to re-engage these citizens.

“Democracy,” McKinney notes, “can only get better with more participants in the process.”  Someone pointed out to her that in a grocery store, shoppers have  a choice between eight varieties of Oreo cookies but for President, our options are limited to just two.

The Green Party’s convention to nominate a presidential candidate will be held July 10-12.  However in many states, Indiana included, ballot access for “minor” party candidates is severely restricted.  The Green Party does not have ballot access in Indiana and the state deadline for signatures to put a candidate’s name on the ballot is June 3oth, four months before the general election.  As a result, the Green Party’s nominee for US President will not appear on the ballot in Indiana, leaving only two presidential choices for every potential voter in Indiana.  This November, voters will have more choices for Oreo cookies than for President.

Email to Jackie Walorski, District 21 Indiana State Representative

sent and posted 4/1/08

Dear Jackie,

It was so nice to meet you at today’s Women’s Campaign College at IUSB. Thank you for your contributions to this event. You are an excellent public speaker and I deeply respect your passion, particularly on the issue of childhood autism. I am keenly aware of this crisis in my work as a Pediatric Occupational Therapist.

Thank you also for your concern with the disparity in ballot access for independent and “minor” party candidates versus Republican and Democratic candidates. I appreciate your acknowledgment that Indiana’s ballot access laws are undemocratic.

At today’s Campaign College, we were schooled on the necessity of time, people and finances in running for office. As you know, independent and minor party candidates face the additional challenge of accessing the ballot. As a woman who ran for local office as a Green Party candidate, limited time and financial resources were diverted from campaigning and towards the effort to put my name on the ballot.

I would like to run again, continuing to address the issues of social justice and sustainability and drawing a connection between a healthy environment and healthy children. Hopefully, with your help, my next run will encounter fewer barriers to the ballot in Indiana.

I am enclosing a link to my blogsite which features a page on ballot access:

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to working with you in addressing fair ballot access. Please let me know who I need to contact in the legislature to begin this process.


Kathleen Petitjean

Pediatric Occupational Therapist

St Joe Valley Greens/Green Party


10 Responses to “Indiana’s Undemocratic Ballot Access”

  1. […] Jackie Walorski, District 21 Indiana State Representative, I brought up the issue of restrictive ballot access for independent and Green Party candidates. She acknowledged the unfairness of state law and asked […]

  2. […] Indiana’s Undemocratic Ballot Access […]

  3. […] Indiana’s Undemocratic Ballot Access […]

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