Sore-loser law

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In United States politics, a sore-loser law is a law which states that the loser in a primary election cannot then run as an independent in the general election.[1]

Application to presidential elections[edit]

In most states, these laws do not apply to presidential candidates. Many states accomplish the same requirement by having simultaneous registration dates for the primary and the general election. Only the states of Connecticut, Iowa, New York, and Vermont have neither a sore-loser law nor simultaneous registration deadlines.[2]

Gary Johnson case[edit]

In Michigan, one of the few states where this law applies to presidential elections as well, Gary Johnson was three minutes late to withdraw from the 2012 Republican Primary and was therefore on the ballot. As a result, he was denied ballot access as a Libertarian.[3]

The Libertarian Party stated that since petitioning in Michigan is by party, not by person, a Texas businessman who is also named Gary E. Johnson would stand in and run for president as a Libertarian in Michigan, but a U.S. District judge denied their motion.[4]

Gary Johnson was certified as a write-in candidate and received 7,774 votes in Michigan in the general election that year.[5]


  1. ^ Lengell, Sean (2010-10-24). Florida eyes 'sore loser' election law., 24 October 2010. Retrieved from
  2. ^ ""Sore loser laws" designed to foster major-party rule and prevent dissent". Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  3. ^ McMorris-Santoro, Evan (2012-06-12). "Is Mitt Romney Afraid of Gary Johnson?". Talking Points Memo. 
  4. ^ Eggert, David (2012-09-20). "Libertarians lose again in fight for spot on Michigan ballot, file appeal". M Live. 
  5. ^ Brush, Mark (2012-11-26). "It's official, Pres. Obama takes Michigan, Gary Johnson wins 'write-in' battle". Michigan Radio. 

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