If Christie Runs, Getting on Ballots Would Be a Sprint

If Christie Runs, Getting on Ballots Would Be a Sprint

By Erin McPike - September 29, 2011

With all the clamoring for Chris Christie to get into the presidential race at this late date, how realistic is it for him -- should he decide to run -- to pull together a serious campaign in the eleventh hour?

There are organizational issues, of course, but the main answer, say leading political consultants, lies in ballot access: getting his name on the Republican presidential primary ballot in all 56 of the states and territories by each of their different deadlines. Those start cropping up in just one month -- Oct. 31, when filing materials are due in Florida.

An additional challenge is that each of the 56 contests has different rules with different deadlines, and the process can be time-consuming, aggravating and expensive.

As Christian Ferry, a GOP consultant at the Virginia-based Trailblazer Group who worked on ballot access for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, put it, “Part of the challenge is that there is no central repository of information for this process. You can’t go to some site like “” and have it presented right in front of you. It takes a long time to research all of this, and it will take you weeks if not months of intelligence gathering and research to figure out when all those deadlines happen.”

Some states simply require a declaration of candidacy from a campaign to put a candidate’s name on the primary ballot. To do so in South Carolina, the campaign has to write a check to the state GOP for $25,000.

In dozens of other states, though, the process is far more arduous.

Virginia is the toughest, said Ferry, because campaigns must collect petitions with signatures from 10,000 registered voters, and the list must include at least 400 signatures from each congressional district. In reality, he said, most campaigns should collect between 15,000 and 20,000 signatures to ensure that they have enough valid ones, as many will be thrown out. That must be done by Dec. 22.

Some campaigns have to hire groups to serve as “signature gatherers,” and that process can be expensive. The irony is that the better funded campaigns are often more organized -- with volunteers down to the county level -- and don’t have to spend any money to accomplish this task. It’s the less-funded and loosely organized campaigns that have to sink more money into the process.

Election lawyers, however, say it’s still possible for a late-entering candidate, such as Christie or Sarah Palin, to get ballot access in each state and territory.

“I do believe you can spend a lot of money to go through the process quickly, but the window to do that is starting to close,” said a high-profile election lawyer in Washington.

Here is why: Florida’s deadline is just around the corner, with Georgia and South Carolina right behind it on Nov. 1. Missouri’s is Nov. 11, and New Hampshire’s is Nov. 18. Illinois has a Dec. 5 deadline that requires the submission of 5,000 signatures.

Of course, some of those deadlines could occur even earlier with shifts in the primary calendar, should some states move up in the nominating process. (Florida could decide soon to schedule its election on Jan. 31, 2012, which would cause the four early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada to shift theirs.)

For that reason, the campaigns that have been at work on ballot access for months would have a distinct advantage. 

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

John McCain on the Back Story of "Thirteen Soldiers"
Carl M. Cannon · November 15, 2014

Latest On Twitter