Tennessee’s Third Parties Take Fight To Court

Tennessee’s system is rigged to keep third parties from becoming recognized, allege lawsuits filed by three political parties in federal court.

The Green, Libertarian and Constitution parties of Tennessee filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Elections Coordinator Mark Goins alleging Tennessee places places “an unconstitutional burden” on smaller political parties, according to Courthouse News Service.

The parties claim state law places stiffer requirements on minor political parties than on the two major statewide parties, in effect keeping the third parties from being fully recognized.

The Libertarians claimed Tennessee’s deadlines for petition signature collection for special general elections are unconstitutional. The Green and Constitution parties went further in their suits and claimed requirements for an affidavit swearing not to support the overthrow of the government, petition signatures and number of votes for minor parties are unconstitutional.

State law requires third parties to gather signatures from 2.5 percent of the total number of votes cast for gubernatorial candidates in the most recent election of governor, to be recognized and appear on the ballot.

Then to be recognized as a “statewide political party,” third-party candidates are required to receive 5 percent of the total number of votes cast for gubernatorial candidates in the most recent election of governor.

Parties recognized as “statewide” have four years to satisfy their requirements, while minor parties “have only the election on the year in which they become ‘recognized minor parties’ to attain the status of ‘statewide political parties,'” the complaint states.

The plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment and attorney’s fees and costs. They are represented by Darrell L. Castle of Memphis.