How to Run for President in Massachusetts — 2012

Qualifications

The qualifications for President of the United States are set forth in the U.S. Constitution. A candidate for president must be 35 years old and a natural born citizen of the United States. There are two ways to run as a candidate in Massachusetts: as a party candidate in the presidential primary, or as a non-party candidate directly in the November election.

Presidential Primary

Party candidates for president may run in the presidential primary. The next presidential primary is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, March 6, 2012. At the presidential primary, voters select a candidate to represent their party for president at the November presidential election.

There are three ways for the names of presidential candidates to be placed on the presidential primary ballot:

  1. Candidates may file nomination papers with at least 2,500 certified signatures. For primary ballot placement, signatures of at least 2,500 voters must be certified by local election officials and subsequently filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth.**
  2. The Secretary of the Commonwealth may place candidates on the ballot who have been generally advocated or recognized in the national news media.
  3. The chairperson of each party's state committee may designate names to be listed.

The presidential primary ballot also includes a “No Preference” choice and a write-in space to indicate presidential preference.

General Election

In the General Election in November, other candidates, not running as party candidates, may run under a political designation (of up to three words) or without any designation. Such non-party candidates run against those candidates nominated by the party state committees. Non-party candidates must circulate nomination papers to get their names on the ballot.*

A non-party candidate seeking to have his or her name placed on the ballot must obtain at least 10,000 certified signatures on such nomination papers. These papers must include the names of the eleven elector candidates (who must be registered voters in Massachusetts) for each presidential candidate and vice-presidential running mate. Although only the names of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates appear on the ballot, it is the electors who cast the actual votes for president and who actually are elected in November.

Write-in candidates may also run, but only if their names and their slate of elector candidates have been filed by Friday, September 7, 2012 with the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

* NOTE: Nomination papers cannot be altered in any way. Additional markings on the papers may disqualify any signatures contained thereon.

Electoral College

Historical Background

When the Constitution was written, the people were widely dispersed and isolated with limited means of transportation and communication. For this reason and because of the suspicion that the people could not be trusted to vote wisely, the vote for president was entrusted to the electors. Although the original constitutional provisions have been changed by subsequent amendments and laws, the Electoral College is still part of the process. Thus, when voters cast their votes for president and vice-president, they are in actuality voting for electors. In turn, these electors vote for the president and vice-president.

The Constitution requires that each state appoint "a number of electors equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state may be entitled in the Congress." Since Massachusetts has two senators and nine representatives, it is therefore entitled to eleven electors. Although the number of electors is determined by the Constitution, each state has been delegated the right to choose the method of selecting them. United States senators and representatives and any person "holding an office of trust or profit under the United States" are prohibited from being electors by the Constitution.

Selection of Electors in Massachusetts

Massachusetts elector candidates must be registered voters of the Commonwealth. They pledge to vote for their party's nominees or for those candidates on whose nomination papers their names were listed as elector candidates. Their names must be filed according to the following guidelines:

  • The state committees of the respective political parties select their presidential electors. These names, with written acceptances and their pledges to vote for the candidates named in the filing, must be filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth by the second Tuesday of September. M. G. L. c. 53, § 8 (2004 ed.). In the year 2012, this deadline is 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 11, 2012.
  • For elector candidates pledged to non-party candidates:
    TThe nomination papers for non-party candidates for president have spaces for the names and addresses of the candidates for president, vice-president and their eleven elector candidates, and such names are filed as part of the nomination papers. Elector candidates pledged to non-party party candidates for president must not be enrolled in any recognized political party in Massachusetts for the 90 day period preceding the filing deadline for nomination papers with the Secretary of the Commonwealth. M. G. L. c. 53, §§ 6, 9 (2004 ed.). The filing deadline with the Secretary of the Commonwealth for nomination papers for elector candidates pledged to non-party candidates is no later than 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 28, 2012.
  • For elector candidates pledged to write-in or sticker candidates:
    Write-in or sticker candidates for president and vice-president select their own elector candidates. These eleven names, with the written acceptance of the elector candidates, are filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth at least 60 days before the date of the election. M. G. L. c. 54,§78A (2004 ed.). Therefore, the final filing deadline with the Secretary of the Commonwealth is no later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, September 7, 2012.

Electoral College Proceedings

The electors whose presidential and vice-presidential candidates received the plurality of the votes in Massachusetts meet at the State House on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, which is December 17, 2012. After they are sworn in by the Governor and choose a presiding officer and secretary, each elector casts a separate ballot for president and vice-president. These votes, cast on the same day in each of the states, are transmitted to the houses of Congress between January 3rd and January 20th. The candidates receiving an absolute majority (270) of the electoral votes are declared President and Vice-President of the United States.

NOTE: These dates and/or requirements are subject to change if new laws are enacted by the General Court.

2012 Presidential Primary

Calendar of Events

Deadline Date

Nomination papers available for presidential candidates.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

5:00 p.m. last day and hour to submit presidential candidates’ nomination papers to local registrars of voters and election commissioners for certification of signatures.

Friday, December 23, 2011

5:00 p.m. last day and hour for registrars to complete certification of signatures for presidential candidates.

Friday, December 30, 2011

5:00 p.m. last day and hour for presidential candidates to apply for review of non-certified signatures.

Tuesday, January 2, 2012

5:00 p.m. last day and hour for registrars to complete review of non-certified signatures.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

5:00 p.m. last day and hour to file presidential candidates’ nomination papers with the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Elections Division.

Friday, January 6, 2012

5:00 p.m. last day and hour to file objections to presidential candidates’ nomination papers with the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Elections Division.

Monday, January 9, 2012

5:00 p.m. last day and hour for presidential candidates to file affidavits of withdrawal with the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Elections Division.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Last day to register voters and for voters to change party enrollment for presidential primary. Registration sessions held from 9:00 a.m.to 8:00 p.m. (except in towns having less than 1,500 voters registration sessions must be held from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY

Tuesday, March 6, 2012