Democratic Rules

State laws and the rules of the Democratic Party control what a candidate must do to get on the ballot and win the party nomination.

In states with primaries, there are statutory candidate filing requirements, but these vary from state to state. In most states that conduct primaries, a candidate may petition for placement on the primary ballot. In some states, election officials or party leaders select candidates to appear on the primary ballot. Some states require a candidate to pay a filing fee get on the ballot. For example, in Alabama a candidate in 2016 had to file a petition containing at least 500 signatures and pay a filing fee to the party. In New Hampshire, a presidential candidate in 2016 only had to pay a $1,000 filing fee in order to be on the primary ballot. Wisconsin allowed its Presidential Preference Selection Committee to determine which names appeared on the primary ballot. Alternatively, a candidate could petition for ballot placement by getting at least 1,000 signatures from each of the state’s congressional districts. Legislatures may change a state’s requirements before 2020.

Democratic Party rules also have a big impact on what a candidate must do to run and win the nomination. In August 2018, the full Democratic National Committee will vote on a rules change adopted by its Rules and Bylaws Committee in June that limits the power of so-called “super delegates.” The new procedures would keep the super delegates from voting at all in the first round of voting at the national convention but would allow super delegates to vote for whomever they want in the unlikely event a presidential candidate isn’t nominated on the first ballot and the convention becomes contested on the floor. This would mean that all votes in the first round of voting would come from delegates selected as a result of primaries, caucuses and state conventions.

The proposed changes come in response to intense criticism super delegates received in 2016 from Bernie Sanders supporters. There were 712 super delegates allotted in 2016, making up about 15% of the entire delegate selection. They included Democratic members of Congress, governors, and party leaders. Almost all of these super delegates were supporting Clinton, and although Hillary Clinton won enough pledged delegates through the primary process to win the nomination, Sanders’ backers were highly critical of the process, which led to the formation of the “Unity Reform Commission” by the DNC to recommend ways to reform the nomination process.

Another rule change adopted by the DNC rules committee in June 2018 could keep someone like Bernie Sanders from seeking the Democratic nomination. If adopted by the full DNC, the rule would state:

In order to seek the party’s nomination, a candidate must publicly announce that they are a registered Democrat, will accept the Democratic nomination, and will “run and serve” as a member of the Democratic Party.

As soon as the DNC adopts its final rules for 2020, links to the rules will be posted on this page. is a great source for information on party rules.