Ballot Rules: Easiest, Toughest States for Candidates

On Friday US District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. is expecting to issue a ruling on the Virginia ballot challenge brought by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.  Perry, joined by his GOP opponents Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Santorum, filed a court order in late December requesting access to the ballot in Virginia's March 6 primary, after  failing to qualify in the commonwealth earlier that month.

The four GOP presidential candidates assert that Virginia's ballot rules impose a "severe burden" and are unconstitutional. Indeed, Virginia's requirements to get on their ballot are numerous and specific; the state requires each candidate to submit 10,000 signatures to the state board of elections, including 400 from each of Virginia's 11 congressional districts, and signatures can only be collected by registered or eligible to register Virginian voters.

With the decision from Judge Gibney on the way, ABC News took a look at other states, besides Virginia, who have a difficult set of requirements to gain access to their ballot, as well as the states with simplest ballot requirements.


Arizona has one of the simplest rules for ballot qualification. There is one ballot requirement: candidates must turn submit a nomination paper, complete with a notarized, original (photocopied sheets not allowed) signature from the candidate. Jon Huntsman failed to qualify in this state because the paper turned in on his behalf was not notarized.


Illinois is another difficult state, with requirements similar to (though not as stringent as) Virginia. To qualify for the presidential preference ballot, a candidate must submit no fewer than 3,000 and no more than 5,000 signatures. On top of that,  to qualify for ballot access in a specific congressional district, a candidate must submit 600 signatures per district, for each of the state's 19 congressional districts.


Louisiana falls into the category of states with the easiest requirements. The state gives candidates two possible ways to qualify for the ballot in their presidential primary. Candidates can either turn in a total of 1,000 signatures from members of their respective party throughout the state. These signatures must include residents of each of the state's eight congressional districts. Or, if a candidate prefers, they can submit a filing fee of $1,125.

New Hampshire

The first in the nation primary ballot is easy to qualify for; candidates must submit a declaration of candidacy along with a $1,000 filing fee to the New Hampshire Secretary of State. This low qualifying threshold tends to result in a long list of names on the ballot.

South Carolina

South Carolina is a wildcard - for a well-financed candidate the state's qualifications are easy; for a candidate whose campaign is low on cash, the state is difficult. That's because South Carolina, while they have no signature requirements, has a  lofty filing fee. Candidates who pay the Palmetto state's filing fee before May 5 save a bit of a money - they are only required to pay $25,000. For candidates who submit their payment afterwards, the price jumps up $10,000 to $35,000.