Section 3: Key Election Process Categories Ballot Qualification

Ballot Qualification

What is ballot qualification?

Every election has rules about who can compete to be elected and how those individuals are selected. These ballot qualification rules should set clear criteria for:

  • how political parties and/or candidates apply to run in an election,
  • how they will be selected, and
  • how they will be listed on the ballot.1

The rules should not be too restrictive or discriminate against certain groups of citizens (although typically, rules define a minimum age and, in some cases, limitations related to parental or dual citizenship). The ballot qualification process should also have a clear and realistic timeline, giving prospective electoral contestants enough time to take the required steps to qualify as candidates. In many countries, getting a spot on the ballot requires signatures from registered voters, sometimes with a minimum geographic distribution and/or fees. In Kenya, for example, anyone who wanted to run in the 2013 presidential election needed 2,000 signatures from registered voters in more than half (24) of the country’s 47 counties.

Why does ballot qualification matter?

The ballot qualification process helps make sure that citizens have a genuine opportunity to be elected. With clear and non-discriminatory rules for ballot qualification, citizens and parties know whether they are eligible for election and what steps they have to take in order to run. At the same time, the process helps make sure ineligible people and parties do not compete. Citizens can use ballot qualification information to figure out how to participate in an election as a candidate. They can also use it to find out how to help nominate a candidate by, say, signing their nomination. Civil society organizations, political parties and the media can use ballot qualification information to assess whether the rules create fair opportunities for citizens to run for election. They can also look at information about who applied, who was accepted and who was rejected to explore whether the rules were applied correctly and fairly. Candidate nomination signatories, their geographic details and how many were accepted or rejected can help in making this assessment. This type of analysis allows groups to assess the inclusiveness and competitiveness of the election.

Example ballot qualification data

Information relating to ballot qualification includes the timeline and rules of the process; information on which candidates applied, which candidates were accepted and which candidates were rejected and why; names of the nomination signatories for each candidate (with geographic information, if applicable); and the number of nomination signatures submitted, accepted and rejected.

  1. Ballot qualification rules can also apply to qualification of referenda and other ballot initiatives. 

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