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I live in California and wish to vote third-party this election season. However, from the research I've done, it looks like I may be unable to vote for my candidate of choice. Really, I have two questions:

1) Whose names will be listed on the Presidential ballot, or - in other words - how does the state decide whose names to place on the ballot?

2) Can I cast a write-in vote for a candidate not listed on the ballot?

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Adding to Dawn's answer, there is more information about running for office here.

The names that will appear on the ballot will be:

  • The nominees of the Democratic, Republican, American Independent, Green, Libertarian, and Peace and Freedom parties, and

  • Anyone who has qualified as an independent candidate. The main requirement is to have gathered the signatures of 178,039 registered voters before August 12. They also had to get 55 people to file papers pledging themselves to that candidate as electors; these would be the people sent to the Electoral College if the candidate wins the majority of the vote in California. (55 is the number of electoral votes allocated to California.)

As Dawn says, a person can qualify as a write-in candidate by, as above, getting 55 people to pledge as electors, by October 25. Details are here. You can write in the name of any such candidate. If you write in any other name, your vote will not be counted.

(As an aside, the documents I linked above contain the helpful information that "The term of office for United States President is four years, beginning January 20, 2017." Just in case the candidate wasn't aware, I guess.)

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  • So, to answer my question: 1) The nominee of any registered party, if the nominee is approved by the Secretary of State or by a circulated petition, and 2) Any candidate who submits qualifications for write-in candidacy by October 28 (per Dawn's answer).
    – moonman239
    Aug 17, 2016 at 18:57
  • @moonman239: Slight correction: under (1), an "independent candidate" doesn't have to be nominated by any party, only by the petition signatures. Aug 17, 2016 at 19:07
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Here are the list of deadlines for California's preparation of ballots. The list of names that will appear on the ballot will be released on September 1.

The Election Guide (an alternative description from 2012) describes how write-in candidates work. A person can declare themselves as a write-in candidate if they have 55 electors that are pledged to cast their Electoral College votes for that person. The deadline for this declaration is October 25. The certified list is released on October 28. You could write in the name of one of these certified write-in candidates.

As an example, this is the certified list of ballot candidates from 2012 and this is the certified list of write-in candidates from 2012.

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