A national comedian’s recent brush with politics has some people asking: what does it take to get your name on the ballot for Iowa’s Caucuses? You may have heard that Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central declared he was running for president, but just in his home state of South Carolina.
“I’m more American than apple pie,” Colbert said this week to open one of his half-hour-long shows. “I’m like apple pie with a hot dog in it. Sexy.” On October 16th, Colbert went on “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central to set things in motion on his own program shortly afterwards. “Well, after nearly 15 minutes of soul-searching, I have heard the call. Nation, I shall seek the office of the President of the United States,” Colbert told his studio audience and those tuning in on cable.
This past week, Colbert balked at paying the $35,000 required to put his name on the Republican primary ballot in South Carolina. But Colbert paid the required $2,500 to try to put his name on South Carolina’s Democratic primary ballot. But Democrats in that state ruled Colbert wasn’t a legitimate candidate because he wasn’t running an “active campaign” in South Carolina and they rejected Colbert’s application.
By comparison, there is no ballot for the Iowa Caucuses and no “entry fee” for candidates. Republicans and Democrats here will hold precinct level meetings on January 3rd. On the Republican side, there’ll be slips of paper on which participants will write the name of their preferred presidential candidate. On the Democratic side, people will literally stand to indicate which candidate they support, gathering in groups with others who back the same candidate. The size of those clumps of people will determine how many delegates to the county convention each candidate will win, as the test of victory in Iowa Democratic Party’s Caucuses is the number of delegates each candidate wins.
As for Iowa’s primary ballots, there again is no fee paid to either political party. Instead, Iowa candidates who want their name on the June ballot are required to circulate petitions and gather the signatures of Iowans. The number of signatures must cross a certain threshhold — based on the number of votes in past elections and the numbers of signatures required are different for each office being sought. And finally, there is no –primary– election in Iowa for president. There are caucuses. They’ll be held January 3rd.