Voting in a Time of Coronavirus – Ballot Access

ema updated 07/16/20 - State petitioning requirements have long posed hurdles for third party and independent candidates seeking to obtain ballot access.  In view of the pandemic, having people go out and gather signatures is not feasible.  Many states are adjusting petitioning requirements for the Nov. 2020 general election, although in quite a few states it is taking considerable poking and prodding and even legal action by the third parties to get action.

Virginia Details
Libertarian Party of Virginia
Jorgensen for President
July 16, 2020

Virginia judge rules to reduce petition signature requirement for alternative presidential candidates 

Libertarian presidential candidate calls ruling important step for millions of voters

RICHMOND, Va.—  U.S. District Court Judge John A. Gibney, Jr. for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled on Wednesday to ease the signature requirement for "third-party" presidential candidates, in light of the difficulty of petitioning presented by the COVID-19 pandemic along with other constraints imposed by local and state governments.

Judge Gibney granted a 50-percent reduction in the signature requirement. Parties must now collect 2500, rather than 5000, signatures by August 21 in order to have their presidential candidate placed on the Nov. 3 ballot in Virginia.

Virginia’s Phase 3 guidelines for social distancing strongly encourage people to "maintain six feet of physical distance when outside of home."

"While Libertarians are grateful for the reduction, we continue to feel it is unreasonable to insist on in-person signature requirements during a pandemic," said Libertarian Party (LP) of Virginia Chair Nick Dunbar. "We will continue to work with the Virginia Board of Elections and the State Assembly to develop a contactless ballot-qualification method."

Dunbar noted that the 50-percent reduction granted by Judge Gibney is less generous than was the 65-percent reduction granted to a Republican U.S. Senate candidate earlier this year.
Despite the difficulty, Dunbar expects Libertarians to meet the new requirement and place Dr. Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian candidate for president, on the ballot.

"This is an important step toward ensuring that more than five million voters in Virginia can vote their conscience this fall," said Dr. Jorgensen, who advocates a far smaller government; much lower taxes; competitive, low-cost health care; and an end to U.S. involvement in foreign wars.
On Monday, Dunbar presented testimony, along with representatives for the Constitution and Green Parties, regarding the obstacles to petitioning they faced this season and the resultant projections of signatures they expect to collect, based on past petitioning efforts.

Almost two dozen alternative-party voters, practicing social distancing and wearing masks, watched the testimony as Judge Gibney considered pro and con arguments. He cited First Amendment rights and other considerations in support of lessening the requirement for this election cycle.

About Jorgensen for President 2020:  Dr. Jo Jorgensen is the 2020 Libertarian Party presidential nominee, and was the party's 1996 vice-presidential nominee. She is a businesswoman, entrepreneur, and senior lecturer at Clemson University. She holds an MBA and a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. Learn more about Jorgensen for President at
About the Libertarian Party: The Libertarian Party was founded in 1972 and today is the third largest political party in the United States. Millions of Americans have voted for Libertarian Party candidates in elections throughout the country. Learn more about the Libertarian Party of Virginia at
Libertarian Party of New Hampshire
May 10, 2020

Libertarian Party of New Hampshire prepares to sue state of New Hampshire for ballot access relief

***For Immediate Release***
Concord, N.H., May 10, 2020 - The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire is preparing to sue the state of New Hampshire for ballot access relief in the wake of COVID-19.

The Party previously sent a request to Secretary of State Bill Gardner that the requirement to gather over 3,000 petitions be waived. Our request was then passed on to legal counsel at the Governor’s office, but all told, more than a month has passed with no genuine effort to ensure citizens do not need to make the choice between public safety and their constitutionally guaranteed right to run for office. The Libertarian Party has already achieved favorable rulings, particularly in Illinois, where a federal court ruled that petitioning requirements should be waived.

LPNH Secretary Jilletta Jarvis made every effort to resolve this without tying up State and Party resources in court, but “after multiple calls, a formal written request, and several more calls, I am at the point where I begin to believe that the Governor’s Office likes to talk about being here for the people of NH, but maybe they only mean a select group of those people. If you are Independent, Libertarian, Green, Constitutionalist, maybe you just count a little bit less to them.”

"When the SOS & AG issued guidance to expand Absentee Voting, the release said ‘voters shouldn't have to choose between health & right to vote,’” points out Libertarian candidate for Governor Darryl Perry. “However, unless petitioning requirements are suspended, our state officials are requiring minor party and independent candidates to choose between health & their constitutional right to be a candidate.”

Libertarian Senate candidate Justin O’Donnell welcomes the move, saying “it is imperative that the State does not force candidates and voters to choose between exercising their constitutional rights and acting in the interests of personal health and public safety.”

The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire is New Hampshire’s third largest political party. For more general info, please visit or email
Richard Manzo, Communications Director

Illinois State Board of Elections
Contact: Matt Dietrich


SPRINGFIELD (April 23, 2020) – Independent and new party candidates seeking placement on the Nov. 3 ballot will be required to submit only 10 percent of the normal number of nominating signatures and will file petitions six weeks later than originally scheduled under a court order issued Thursday by Chief U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer.

The order was in response to a lawsuit by the Libertarian Party of Illinois, the Illinois Green Party and several independent candidates alleging that concerns over COVID-19, including a statewide order limiting social contact, impaired their ability to gather sufficient signatures and meet the June 22 filing deadline for new party and independent candidates. Under the order, new party and independent candidates will file nominating petitions with the State Board of Elections from July 31-Aug. 7.

In addition to reducing the number of signatures required by candidates, the order allows the Libertarian and Green parties to place candidates on the November ballot without filing nominating petitions for any offices in which those parties fielded candidates in either the 2016 or 2018 general elections. This means both parties can place candidates for president and U.S. Senate on the November ballot. The Green Party also can name candidates to the ballot in the 5th and 12th congressional races.

Other independent and new party candidates will be required to submit 10 percent of the statutory signature requirements for offices on the November ballot. This reduces the original 25,000 signature requirement for presidential, U.S. Senate, Illinois Supreme Court and Illinois Appellate Court candidates to 2,500 signatures. Signature requirements for other offices on the November ballot vary by office, and the original requirements are listed in the 2020 Candidates Guide, which is attached to this release.

The order also drops the requirement that signatures on nominating petitions be original, physical signatures. A physical “wet” signature would still be permitted but not required on the candidate’s petition. Petition signers may physically sign a copy of a candidate’s petition, or they may electronically sign their handwritten signatures to the petition using a finger or a device such as a computer mouse or stylus. Photocopies of signatures also will be permitted.

For more details, please see the full order below.

The State Board of Elections is an independent state agency charged with the responsibility of having general supervision over the administration of election laws of the State of Illinois. Elections are administered locally by the State’s 108 election authorities.

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Libertarian Party of Iowa
April 21, 2020

PRESS RELEASE: Libertarian Party of Iowa Requests Presidential Ballot Access for the 2020 General Election

Please see the statement and accompanying letter from Libertarian Party of Iowa Chair Mike Conner Jr to Governor Kim Reynolds regarding Presidential Ballot Access.

During it’s 45 year tenure, the Libertarian Party of Iowa has been a consistent voice of liberty and freedom, fighting on behalf of Iowans for self-ownership, self-governance, and individual rights. Because of the spread of COVID-19, many Iowan’s ability to vote for the candidate of their choice on the ballot this November appears to be in jeopardy.

Shortly after Governor Kim Reynolds signed a disaster proclamation on March 9th, the Libertarian Party of Iowa and Green Party of Iowa issued a request to move the filing deadlines for county, state, and federal candidates due to the uncertainty of the Coronavirus. This request was eventually denied, and multiple potential candidates will ultimately be left off the ballots due to the inability to safely obtain the signatures needed.

As state restrictions have increased due to the outbreak, so have the ability to petition for Presidential ballot access. In order to prioritize the health and safety of Iowans, and in the interest of citizens statewide, the Libertarian National Committee and the Libertarian Party of Iowa have asked Governor Kim Reynolds to issue an Executive Order waiving petitioning requirements and determine that the Libertarian Presidential Nominee obtain ballot access in the General Election.

Mike Conner Jr – Libertarian Party of Iowa Chair

From the ballot access request:

Dear Governor Reynolds:

The Libertarian Party of Iowa (LPIA) has been organizing petitioners throughout the state to collect the signatures to ensure our party’s presidential nominee is able to qualify for the November 2020 general election ballot under Iowa law.

Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and the state public health emergency declaration that Governor Reynolds issued on March 17, 2020, our effort to petition for signatures has come to a complete halt. As a party that has had nearly constant success in qualifying for the ballot, we request that the Governor, General Assembly, and the Secretary of State understand the effect this public health emergency has had on people’s willingness to be approached by a stranger, let alone take a pen or clipboard. Although we think our petitioners are healthy, and they would be benched at the first sign of illness, the virus is apparently often spread by people who are asymptomatic.
This situation makes it impossible for our candidates to attain ballot access in Iowa in 2020 under current law.

LPIA has had a consistent presence in Iowa for 45 years, running candidates, lobbying the General Assembly, and holding outreach events, thereby having established our regular participation in the democratic process.  In that 45 year period, the Libertarian Party of Iowa has successfully petitioned for statewide ballot access in every presidential election but two (the ‘76 and ‘80 elections). But with the impact of this public health emergency, Libertarian Party presidential ballot access in 2020 is in jeopardy.

In light of Governor Reynold’s emergency declaration, the uncertainty of the extent in which the COVID-19 virus will impact the state heading into the summer months, the rich history that the Libertarian Party has in the state of Iowa, and most importantly in the interest of public health, we ask that the governor sign an executive order waiving the petitioning requirements under current law and determine that the Libertarian presidential candidate qualifies for the 2020 general election ballot. In the alternative, we request that the Governor and Secretary of State work with us to establish a method for the Libertarian candidate to qualify for the 2020 general election ballot that does not require face-to-face petitioning and is reasonable under the circumstances.

Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to working with you to resolve this matter in a manner that protects the interests of both LPIA and the State of Iowa.

For more information about The Libertarian Party of Iowa, including photos to use in your publication, please contact us or visit:

To schedule interviews or for more information please contact:
Mike Conner Jr.
LPIA State Chair

Green Party of the United States
For Immediate Release:
April 20, 2020
Michael O’Neil, Communications Manager,, 202-804-2758
Holly Hart, Co-chair, Media Committee,, 202-804-2758
Craig Seeman, Co-chair, Media Committee,, 202-804-2758

Green Party Lawsuits Allege States Are Exploiting COVID-19 to Limit Voter Options

The Green Party of the United States has announced lawsuits have been filed in Illinois and Georgia to stop Democratic- and Republican-run boards of elections from exploiting COVID-19, social distancing and shelter-in-place guidelines to prevent the Green Party from gathering petition signatures for candidates. The Green Party has been appealing to governors across the nation for emergency ballot access relief for candidates in the interest of public health and safety. Lawsuits in more states are being explored if officials do not respond.

The Greens note that maintaining these signature requirements despite pandemic conditions also jeopardizes ballot lines for their presidential candidate, who will be nominated at the Green Party convention in July. The Green Presidential candidate was on the ballot on 44 states plus DC in 2016.

The Illinois and Georgia Green Parties have filed lawsuits to force equitable treatment and other state green parties have requested relief from petition requirements, with some positive results. The state of New Jersey has granted the Green Party of New Jersey approval for electronic petitioning after Greens there requested equitable treatment. The Vermont Green Party has been released from petitioning requirements altogether by the state legislature.

Brendan Phillips, Co-chair of the Green Party Ballot Access Committee said, “Ballot access restrictions are perhaps the most egregious obstacles facing independent and third-party candidates. Many states already require near-insurmountable signature requirements just to get on the ballot. These onerous requirements help the controlling parties to maintain power over who is elected. Considering the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, these already very difficult requirements now force candidates to endanger themselves, their families and the very people they seek to represent in public office. We are no longer able to collect petition signatures for ballot access. Unless state Governors take executive action to provide relief, our only path to the ballot in 2020 will be through the courts.”

The Green and Libertarian Parties of Illinois filed a lawsuit on April 2 (pdf) asking that petition signature requirements be waived or suspended for this year’s general election. The Illinois State Board of Elections has refused to modify the signature requirements for “new” parties, including the Green Party, to take into account the Illinois governor’s March 20 emergency “stay at home” order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The current period for obtaining signatures, including for candidates for president, is from March 24 to June 22. The Democrats and Republicans, which are considered “established” parties and have lower signature requirements, petitioned last autumn and the candidates were chosen in a March primary.

“Despite Illinois having one of the most oppressive ballot access laws in the nation, requiring so-called ‘new’ parties to gather 25,000 valid petition signatures from Illinois voters in just 90 days for statewide candidates (which actually requires gathering about 50,000 to thwart challenges from objectors), the Illinois Green Party and its supporters have demonstrated time and again that we are capable of meeting that goal, beginning with the Nader campaign in 2000. Therefore, we believe we have a very strong case to be relieved of the petition-gathering requirement under the current circumstances, which make public petitioning impossible," said Rich Whitney, Co-chair, Illinois Green Party.

The Green and Libertarian nominees for the U.S. House of Representatives filed a lawsuit on March 26 asking that petition signature requirements for independent and third-party candidates be reduced to account for days lost because of social distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Green Party plaintiff Jimmy Cooper III, who is running in the 8th Congressional District, is required to collect over 20,000 signatures by Aug. 14 to get on the ballot. The party is also seeking to collect 7,500 signatures to secure a ballot line for the Green Party presidential candidate.

The plaintiffs said in their complaint that “[t]he public-health emergency caused by COVID-19 makes it virtually impossible to gather petition signatures. . . . Gathering signatures during the COVID-19 outbreak endangers public health and the lives of petition-circulators and potential signers.”

The Green Party of New Jersey wrote a letter to N.J. Governor Phil Murphy on April 7 to request that the Green Party and other independent parties be granted the same rule changes that have allowed the Democratic and Republican candidates to gather and file petition signatures electronically as well as in person. On March 19 the governor signed an executive order allowing voters to fill out and submit petitions electronically and candidates to submit their petitions electronically for Democratic and Republican candidates. In response to public pressure, the governor has since extended the order to apply to independent candidates for the U.S. Senate and local elections. He has not yet decided on petition rules for independent presidential candidates.

The Vermont legislature approved H.681, which removes petitioning requirements for the year 2020, requires ballots to be sent by mail to all registered voters and implements other social distancing measures to protect the health, safety, and welfare of voters, elections workers, and candidates.

State Green parties in Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Virginia have also asked for relief from petitioning requirements.

Libertarian, Green parties sue over Illinois election rules, Anzel, Rebecca. Daily Journal, Capitol News IllinoisI, April 8, 2020
Lawsuit: Ease requirements for third parties in Georgia amind Coronavirus, Niesse, Mark. The Atlanta Journal Constitution, March 27, 2020
New Jersey
Governor Murphy: Extend Democracy To The Green, Libertarian, Socialist Parties and All Independent Candidates During This Crisis, Insider NJ, April 7, 2020
Green Party Ballot Access
A blog list of articles on the issue:
Green Party of the United States

Libertarian National Committee

March 30, 2020

The Libertarian Party, America’s third party, calls on Governors across the Country to remove all petitioning requirements in 2020.

The Libertarian Party, which is one of the only 3 parties in American History to have ever had 50 state +DC (50+) ballot access in consecutive elections, is calling for America’s Governor’s to defend the democratic process.

“Universal access to the ballot is a core and critical aspect of the American democratic process. From the earliest calls of ‘No taxation without representation’ Americans have been committed to the idea that any person can run for office,” said Libertarian Party Chair Nicholas Sarwark.

In most states candidates are required to petition the public by gathering signatures. Obviously, in the era of Coronavirus, this is a public health issue and an impossible feat.. Some states, like Utah and New Jersey, are exploring online collection of signatures, but the burden of having to have access to a printer and a scanner in order to support a candidate is a new poll tax. Additionally, the possibility of error in an untried and untested situation is too high for such a critical

The Libertarian Party has proven capable of meeting all petitioning requirements in the past, most recently evidenced when Gary Johnson was on the ballot in every state and the District of Columbia. This year in the interest of Public Health, The Libertarian Party calls on the Governors of all 50 states to waive all petitioning requirements in 2020 — and to allow the postponing of conventions whose dates are mandated by law. Nothing is as critical for Americans right now our sense of voluntary community, and nothing reinforces that sense of community as much as when we go to the polls and see candidates who represent us. As Governors restrict people for their own health and safety and that of the communities they belong to, the Libertarian Party requests they similarly safeguard our American Democracy.

Howie Hawkins 2020
For immediate release: March 19, 2020
For more information:
Howie Hawkins
Kevin Zeese



Howie Hawkins, a candidate for the Green presidential nomination, announced today that his campaign is asking its volunteers to suspend petitioning for state ballot lines in order to protect petitioners and the public from spreading infections of the COVID-19 virus.

The campaign will be working with the state and national Green parties to seek relief from state election officials from the petitioning requirements to qualify the party for the ballot.

“Given that public health officials are recommending social distancing to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we believe it is in the interest of democracy for the states to put the Green Party on the ballot without a physical petition,” Hawkins said. “We are now putting together a team of lawyers to help us make the case to the states that the Green Party should be on all the state ballots in the 2020 election.”

Hawkins said a top goal of his campaign has been to help the Green Party qualify for the ballot in all 50 states and DC in 2020.

US ballot access laws are far more restrictive that most other electoral democracies around the world. For independent or new party candidates to qualify for the ballot of national legislatures, it takes two signatures in New Zealand, 10 signatures in the United Kingdom, 50 signatures in Australia, 50 to 100 signatures in Canada, and 200 signatures in Germany. In most US states, it takes thousands or tens of thousands of signatures to qualify independent or new party congressional candidates for the ballot.

Hawkins said he was concerned that the coronavirus emergency could lead to further restrictions on democracy. “Emergencies often lead to curtailments of civil liberties, open government, and democracy. We need to be extra vigilant to protect democracy at this time,” Hawkins said.

Ballot petitioning has already been suspended in New York as of 5 pm, March 17 by an Executive Order of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The Green Party is currently qualified for the ballot in 20 states and the District of Columbia. It was in the process of petitioning to qualify for the other 30 states.

The Green Party presidential candidate has been on the ballot of the majority of states in every presidential election since 1996. In 2016, the Green presidential ticket of Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka was on the ballot in 45 states and qualified for write-in votes in three additional states.
Hawkins is a retired Teamster from Syracuse, New York. He is leading in the race for the Green Party presidential nomination in the state primaries, caucuses, and conventions held to date. He was the first US candidate to campaign for a Green New Deal in 2010 in the first of his three campaigns for New York governor in which he came in third among five to seven candidates and received enough votes to qualify the Green Party for a ballot line for the next four-year election cycle.

Hawkins’ campaign platform features policies to address what he calls the life or death issues of climate, inequality, and nuclear weapons. He calls for a full-strength Green New Deal to address the climate crisis, an Economic Bill of Rights to end poverty and reduce the growing inequality that has led to declining working class life expectancies, and Nuclear Disarmament Initiatives to reverse the new nuclear arms race. He also focuses on replacing the Electoral College with a ranked-choice national popular vote to elect the president in order to end the spoiler problem and elect a president who receives a majority of votes.

“These policies won’t be debated if the Green Party is not on the ballot,” Hawkins said.