An individual presents themselves to an American political party, expressing a wish to be that party's candidate in the next Presidential election. The individual passes all the Constitutional requirements to be elected President.

Can the party "hierarchy" refuse to accept this individual, keep them out of the party debates and off the party primary ballots?

  • Can they do that for local elections too? I've heard of Democrats kicking people out because they were not sufficiently liberal.
    – Chloe
    Aug 7, 2017 at 15:52
  • 2
    I think there's already a question whose answers cover that? (short version: each state has individual rules for how someone gets on that specific state's party ballot in general election; and each state's party has its own private rules for primaries/caucuses - but the primary rules ARE under control of state party, so they can legally change the rules "at will" - presumably, at risk of suffering a political backlash)
    – user4012
    Aug 7, 2017 at 15:55
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    Possible duplicate of Can the results of a primary be ignored at the convention?
    – Machavity
    Aug 7, 2017 at 16:24
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    That's a slight different question from "can they be kept off the ballot". Aug 7, 2017 at 16:33
  • 3
    A political party's candidate is chosen by the party so, yes, they can set up the rules as they see fit to decide who and who isn't a candidate.
    – user1530
    Aug 7, 2017 at 16:56

2 Answers 2


Parties have rules. The rules specify a process for choosing a candidate. For the Republican and Democrat party the rules are (roughly) "each state chooses delegates to a convention, and the delegates vote on who should be the party's candidate". Any candidate who follows the party rules can be selected by this process. The "hierarchy" is not a formal organisation, so can't act as body. There are, however, mechanisms whereby senior party members can act against a candidate:

An extract of the Democrat party rules for the selection of delgates:

The term “presidential candidate” herein shall mean any person who, as determined by the National Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, has accrued delegates in the nominating process and plans to seek the nomination, has established substantial support for his or her nomination as the Democratic candidate for the Office of the President of the United States, is a bona fide Democrat whose record of public service, accomplishment, public writings and/or public statements affirmatively demonstrates that he or she is faithful to the interests, welfare and success of the Democratic Party of the United States, and will participate in the Convention in good faith.

So there is a process by which one who has accrued delegates can be excluded on the grounds of not being "a bona fide Democrat". I would expect there to be a similar clause in the Republican party.

The rules of any party are subject to legal review. If someone was excluded on the ground that they were not a bona fide Democrat, I would expect lawyers to be become involved quite rapidly. I would also expect that a party that was so divided that it excluded someone who had won a majority of the delegates at the convention to crash and burn at the General election. (But then Trump was elected, so I could be wrong.)


For the most part, you do not actually belong to the Democrat or Republican Party in the United States. You belong to local party chapters that grants you membership to the State Party. And the national party is made up of delegations from the state parties. Either your local party has to have enough pull, or your state party has to be willing to back you for a national election. If they do then you are probably going to be on all the ballots.

The specifics of how that works varies but basically each of the local parties has on file signatures that give the party an effective position on the ballots. Each of the local parties manages their local jurisdictions where they run candidates. The state organization pools their signatures to put a candidate on the ballot.

Most states will include all of the candidates in a primary that already have been approved by a state organization, but a state party can and in some cases have chosen not to include some candidates. Perhaps most famously David Duke was rejected by the Wisconsin GOP. It is possible that a controversial candidate could have enough support in Iowa to have a big win, but that states in the future primaries could reject the candidate.

But practically, if a Candidate can raise money for the party, the party will include them on the ballot even if they are assumed to be an also ran, or just a divisive candidate like Ron Paul. As we saw in the 2016 election Allowing an also ran to get significant support and then cutting their political knees out from under them can have serious consequences.

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