Filing Fees for Candidates for State Legislator

3/16/2020

Photo of five U.S. money bills.Filing fees are paid by candidates as a prerequisite to becoming a candidate and running for office. Today 32 states use filing fees as an available means of filing as a candidate. This page contains a brief history of filing fees, major approaches to filing fees, a chart detailing each state’s filing fee requirements and alternatives to fees for indigent candidates.

History

Filing fees were originally used as a way to deter frivolous candidates from cluttering ballots and to help pay for the administration of elections. These fees were at times exceptionally large. Some from the 1960s and 1970s were close to $40,000 once adjusted for inflation. Two landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the early 1970s held that filing fees were only constitutional when most candidates could afford them, and they should not be the only means available for filing as a candidate.

Today filing fees are still used to deter frivolous candidates and to help fund elections, but each state also provides an avenue to indigent candidates who cannot pay the fees, generally by accepting petitions with voter signatures instead.

Approaches to Filing Fees

Filing fees are either set by the state or the political parties within the state. In most states with filing fees the state sets the fee. Only Alabama, Arkansas, and Delaware allow the political parties to set the filing fees.

Thirty-three states require major party candidates to pay a filing fee. The remaining 17 states do not require major party candidates to pay a filing fee. (States that do not require a filing fee generally require interested candidates to qualify through a petition process.) These states vary dramatically. Filing for a state House position in New Hampshire costs $2, while a Republican candidate for state Senate in Arkansas must pay $7,500 to appear on the ballot, and a Democratic candidate must pay $2,250.

Nineteen states impose fees on individual, or independent, candidates for state legislative seats. Of these, twelve give the individual candidate the option to file as indigent, removing the fee and using a signature requirement instead. For the seven states that require a fee from individual candidates, the fee ranges from $15 in Mississippi to $200 in West Virginia and Kentucky.

To calculate fees, some states set a fixed amount and others set a percentage of the salary for the office. For example, Florida sets the fee at three percent of the annual salary for a legislator; Hawaii sets a fixed fee of $250. See the chart below.

Filing Fees for Candidates for State Legislator
 

State Senator

State Representative

State

Independent

Major Party

Independent

Major party

Alabama

none

$925.14

none

$925.14

Alaska

$30

$30

$30

$30

Arizona

none

none

none

none

Arkansas

none

$7,500 for Republicans / $4,500 for Democrats

none

$3,000 for Republicans / $3,000 for Democrats

California

1 percent of the annual salary for the position

1 percent of the annual salary for the position

1 percent of the annual salary for the position

1 percent of the annual salary for the position

Colorado

none

none

none

none

Connecticut

none

none

none

none

Delaware

none

$945

none

$945

Florida

3 percent of the annual salary for the position

3 percent of the annual salary for the position

3 percent of the annual salary for the position

3 percent of the annual salary for the position

Georgia

$400

$400

$400

$400

Hawaii

$250

$250

$250

$250

Idaho

none

$30

none

$30

Illinois

none

none

none

none

Indiana

none

none

none

none

Iowa

none

none

none

none

Kansas

$145

$145 $120 $120

Kentucky

$200

$200

$200

$200

Louisiana

$300

$600 $225 $450

Maine

none

none

none

none

Maryland

$50

$50

$50

$50

Massachusetts

none

none

none

none

Michigan

none

$100

none

$100

Minnesota

$100

$100

$100

$100

Mississippi

$250

$250 $250 $250

Missouri

none

$50

none

$100

Montana

$15

$15

$15

$15

Nebraska

1 percent of the annual salary of the position

1 percent of the annual salary of the position N/A (unicameral) N/A (unicameral)

Nevada

$100

$100

$100

$100

New Hampshire

none

$10

none

$2

New Jersey

none

none

none

none

New Mexico

none

none

none

none

New York

none

none

none

none

North Carolina

1 percent of the annual salary of the position

1 percent of the annual salary of the position

1 percent of the annual salary of the position

1 percent of the annual salary of the position

North Dakota

none

none

none

none

Ohio

$85

$85

$85

$85

Oklahoma

$750

$750 $500 $500

Oregon

none

$25

none

$25

Pennsylvania

none

$100

none

$100

Rhode Island

none

none

none

none

South Carolina

none

$416

none

$208

South Dakota

none

none

none

none

Tennessee

none

none

none

none

Texas

none

$1,250

none

$750

Utah

1/8th of 1 percent of the total salary of the position + $50

1/8th of 1 percent of the total salary of the position + $50

1/8th of 1 percent of the total salary of the position + $50

1/8th of 1 percent of the total salary of the position + $50

Vermont

none

none

none

none

Virginia

none

2 percent of the annual salary of the position

none

2 percent of the annual salary of the position

Washington

1 percent of the annual salary of the position

1 percent of the annual salary of the position

1 percent of the annual salary of the position

1 percent of the annual salary of the position

West Virginia

$200

$200 $100 $100

Wisconsin

none

none

none

none

Wyoming

$25

$25

$25

$25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indigent Candidates

According to Lubin v. Panish, states may not require indigent candidates to pay filing fees to become a candidate. In accordance with this case, each state provides a method for filing as a candidate that is accessible to indigent candidates and does not require them to pay a fee. In those states, candidates can file for an exception to the filing fee, and upon approval, these people can become indigent candidates. They do not have to indicate that they are an indigent candidate on any of their advertising or make any other indication of this status.

States vary in their approaches. Some states require that all candidates pay a filing fee and have an exception for indigent candidates. Other states require a filing fee, but also provide an alternative in the form of a petition that is available to all candidates. Still others require no filing fee at all.

50-State Overview

  • 34 states require some candidates to file by fee. Thirteen of these 34 states have explicit indigent candidate exceptions.
  • 13 states allow candidates to file by fee but also provide a filing by petition alternative.
  • 16 states don’t require filing fees of any candidate for a state legislative seat.

The following chart details the available options for indigent candidates by state.

Options for Indigent Candidates

State

Filing Fee Required

Either-Or State

Explicit Indigent Exception

Average Fee

Alabama

yes

no

no

$1,066.97

Alaska

yes

no

yes

$30

Arizona

no

no

no

n.a.

Arkansas

yes

no

no

$3,333.33

California

yes

yes

no

$952.91

Colorado

no

no

no

n.a.

Connecticut

no

no

no

n.a.

Delaware

yes

no

yes

$1,162.67

Florida

yes

yes

no

$1,633.12

Georgia

yes

no

yes

$400

Hawaii

yes

no

yes

$250

Idaho

yes

yes

no

$30

Illinois

no

no

no

n.a.

Indiana

no

no

no

n.a.

Iowa

no

no

no

n.a.

Kansas

yes

yes

yes

$56.33

Kentucky

yes

no

no

$200

Louisiana

yes

yes

no

$468.75

Maine

no

no

no

n.a.

Maryland

yes

no

yes

$50

Massachusetts

no

no

no

n.a.

Michigan

yes

yes

no

$100

Minnesota

yes

yes

no

$100

Mississippi

yes

no

no

$15

Missouri

yes

no

yes

$75

Montana

yes

no

yes

$15

Nebraska

yes

no

no

$120

Nevada

yes

no

yes

$100

New Hampshire

yes

yes

no

$6

New Jersey

no

no

no

n.a.

New Mexico

yes

no

yes

$50

New York

no

no

no

n.a.

North Carolina

yes

yes

no

$207

North Dakota

no

no

no

n.a.

Ohio

yes

no

no

$85

Oklahoma

yes

yes

no

$200

Oregon

yes

no

no

$25

Pennsylvania

yes

no

yes

$100

Rhode Island

no

no

no

n.a.

South Carolina

yes

no

no

$312

South Dakota

no

no

no

n.a.

Tennessee

no

no

no

n.a.

Texas

yes

yes

no

$1,000

Utah

yes

no

yes

$72.35

Vermont

no

no

no

n.a.

Virginia

yes

no

no

$356

Washington

yes

no

yes

$421

West Virginia

yes

yes

no

$150

Wisconsin

no

no

no

n.a.

Wyoming

yes

yes

no

$25

 

About This NCSL Project

NCSL tracks election and campaign issues in four major categories: election laws and procedures, campaign finance, initiative and referendum, and election results and analysis. We provide comprehensive 50-state research and analysis on a wide variety of topics related to these issues.

For redistricting, NCSL provides similar data that covers redistricting laws, commissions and litigation.

Additionally, NCSL's Redistricting and Elections Standing Committee works on issues that affect all states, including voting technology and redistricting systems and technology.

If you don't find the information you need, please contact our elections team at 303-364-7700 or elections-info@ncsl.org. NCSL staff can do specialized searches for legislators and legislative staff.

Additional Resources