Five Percent

Third party Presidential candidates face many obstacles when running for the highest office in the land.  Among those obstacles are ballot access restrictions, the public perception that they can’t win, and the lack of organizational and fundraising capabilities that could help them compete with the two major parties.  Ballot access restrictions are probably the greatest obstacle.  Each state has its own rules regarding who can and cannot get on a ballot for office.  Some states require petitions to be filed with a certain minimum of signatures.  Other states simply require a filing fee to ensure access.  For the most part, the two major parties are required to get a smaller number of signatures than their third party counterparts when gaining access to a ballot.  Ballot Access News provides a wealth of information on the difficulties that third party candidates face when running for office.

There is an upside though to third party Presidential candidacies.  Ballot access restrictions can be waived for a third party in the next Presidential election if their candidate for President this year receives 5% of the vote.  Five percent, according to the Federal Election Commission, is needed for major party recognition.  Five percent not only waives the signature requirement, but it also guarantees federal financial assistance to that third party in the next Presidential election.  This percentage may seem quite low, but recent history tells us that this threshold is quite difficult for third parties to meet.


Ralph Nader (Independent) 0.56%

Bob Barr (Libertarian) 0.40%

Chuck Baldwin (Constitution) 0.15%

Cynthia McKinney (Green) 0.12%


Nader (Independent) 0.38%

Michael Badnarik (Libertarian) 0.32%

Michael Peroutka (Constitution) 0.12%

David Cobb (Green) 0.10%


Nader (Green) 2.73%

Pat Buchanan (Reform) 0.43%

Harry Browne (Libertarian) 0.36%

Howard Phillips (Constitution) 0.09%

John Hagelin (Natural Law) 0.08%

Source:  Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections

What are your thoughts on the five percent rule?  What information did you find on Ballot Access News that piqued your interest?


5 responses to “Five Percent

  1. I can see how five percent matters, but I don’t think that’s enough to make the person important enough. I feel it should be raised a little bit more.

  2. I feel that the 5% rule is fair. Third party candidates don’t have anywhere near as much money as Democrats or Republicans, which makes it difficult when running against them. Also, 5% is extremely difficult to achieve. Therefore, If any Third party candidate actually achieves 5%, they deserve the federal money and automatic placement on the next ballot.

  3. I think the 5% rule is a good rule. It gives them a decently fair chance to be on the ballot. I also think that this may even be very achievable for this election because it seems so many people are leaning towards the third parties.

  4. The 5% rule isn’t fair because of the rules that hinder a third party’s ability to get on state ballots. There should be an even playing field as far as the states are concerned. Without an ability to get on all ballots evenly, how is a third party going to reach 5%? The two major parties have no viable competition and they like it that way. Many pundits suggest that people vote for personalities rather than on issues. If a third party had the exposure that the two majors had, it would be a real threat.

  5. Gilbert P. Broderick III

    The five percent rule is not fair due to the fact that its extremely hard to get a place on a state ballot; furthermore, with little running money and getting on a ballot is extremely difficult, and it will be very hard for a third party to achieve the goal of 5% which kind of makes it more easy for Republicans and Democrats to get into office. Moreover, I feel as if as times changed many people are voting off personalities, an example of this would be Obamas theme “Change” after the milestones of the Bush era. Considering the fact that our deficit has raised over ten trillion dollars many people want a businessman in office to manage the budget. In conclusion having a third party reach the five percent would be an extreme change to our current system.

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