Sixth Circuit: Tennessee ballot access standards unconstitutional

Sixth_CircuitThe Tennesseean reports the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Tennessee’s ballot access standards violate the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

Chief Judge R. Guy Cole Jr. wrote, “Tennessee’s ballot-retention statute clearly imposes a heavier burden on minor parties than major parties by giving minor parties less time to obtain the same level of electoral success as established parties.” The Tennessee Constitution and Green parties had filed the suit.

The newspaper says the ruling “means Tennessee’s requirements for minor parties to get their candidates on a ballot can’t be enforced.” Tennessee Green Party Co-Chair Kate Culver told the newspaper, “This is huge for the potential for third parties to have a voice in the political arena.”

A spokesman for Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett “said his office is reviewing the court’s decision to determine what action the state might take next.” Last year, members of the state Constitution, Green, and Libertarian parties met with state legislators to suggest reforms, “but lawmakers have yet to take action on any offered bills.”

2 thoughts on “Sixth Circuit: Tennessee ballot access standards unconstitutional

  1. Andy

    Minor parties in Tennessee have been fighting to get a more fair ballot access law passed, but a primarily Republican led effort has been blocking them. Hopefully they will get much needed relief in time to run a slate of candidates with their party labels for this election.

  2. Richard Winger

    This decision might also be used to attack Maryland’s law on how a party stays on the ballot. The Maryland law gives 2 elections for groups that file a petition. But when a party meets the vote test (1% for the office at the top of the ticket, president & governor) it only gets 1 more election. One could argue that groups that meet the vote test also should get 2 elections.

    More important, this decision will help to win 4 other cases pending in states of the sixth circuit. There are two cases pending in Ohio in US District Courts, and one in Tennessee, and also a Michigan case now in the 6th circuit.

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