Ballot Access

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Political parties in the United States

A cardboard ballot box at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
As of December 2021, there were 209 state-level ballot-qualified political party affiliates in the United States. Requirements for state-level recognition are state-specific. For example, in some states a party's candidate for a specific office must win a certain percentage of the vote in order for the party to be ballot-qualified in the state. In other states, a political party must register a certain number of voters in order to achieve ballot status. As of December 2021, three minor parties were recognized in more than 10 states: the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, and the Constitution Party.

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Ballot access policy

Ballot access refers to the rules and regulations determining which candidates and parties may appear on voters' ballots. Rules for ballot access are complex and state-specific. Generally, a candidate may run as the nominee of a political party, as an independent candidate, or as a write-in candidate.

"Sore loser" laws

A voting machine at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Some states bar candidates who sought, but failed, to secure the nomination of a political party from running as independents in the general election. These rules are often refered to as "sore loser laws." According to ballot access expert Richard Winger, 45 states have sore loser laws on the books, but in 43 of these states the laws do not seem to apply to presidential candidates.