This article looks at the filing deadlines (mostly) and signature requirements for getting a third-party candidate onto each state’s November ballot for president. There is already talk of the #NeverTrump crowd launching a bid and there are whispers of a Sanders run as well. But for the moment, I’m just going to look at the dates and numbers. After assessing the requirements, I’ll close with a prediction of what I think is at least possible to happen.
I’m taking my information from a table found at:
Of immediate concern for any third-party candidate is Texas. Not only is its deadline for filing to get on the November ballot May 9th (three days from the date I’m writing this) but the rules require almost 80,000 petition signatures. Clearly, neither a new conservative third-party nor a possible Sanders third-party effort will be on the Texas ballot, and that’s a significant number of electoral votes to leave on the table, especially for a Conservative.
Next up is North Carolina (90k sigs) on June 9th and New Mexico (15k), Illinois (25k) and Indiana (27k) at the end of the month (the 29th and 30th). While there is a little more breathing room to file, it’s not much considering the number of signatures required, especially for North Carolina.
I’m not going to detail every state’s requirements (too much typing) but July 15th is the deadline for Florida, which requires 120,000 signatures, and eight other states, including larger ones such as Michigan, also have deadlines that month.
California’s filing deadline is August 12th (requiring almost 180k sigs) which is a huge undertaking. New York is on August 23rd, with only 15k signatures required, but at least 100 from each congressional district (making it an organizational challenge). Pennsylvania is on August 1st (25k sigs) and Colorado, Ohio, Missouri and Virginia also have August deadlines.
I’ll just assume that the remaining states are within reach for a candidate who gets to work immediately following the conventions in July. There are even five states that accept signatures as late as September. See the linked table (you have to scroll down quite a way to find it).
Considering that a Sanders third-party run wouldn’t even begin until after the Democratic convention in July (or at minimum, after/if Sanders loses California and New Jersey in June) there would be little chance to make any of the June or even July deadlines for filing, which would leave 14 good-sized states, especially swing-state Florida, on the table. It seems impractical if the goal is to win the presidency, and would only serve to be a spoiler in big states like California and New York.
Likewise, unless the #NeverTrump forces are going to declare immediately, they lose Texas, and a Conservative doesn’t win the presidency without Texas. Likewise, leaving the July states out (Florida, etc.) also makes any possible run nothing but an exercise in spoiling it for Trump.
Therefore, I predict there will be no third-party runs this year from either Sanders or the #NeverTrumps. It’s going to be Clinton v. Trump. Pick a side, or pick one of the third-party candidates who have already done the work to get on the ballots.