Monday, September 25, 2023
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Minor Political Parties Sue Tennessee

NASHVILLE (CN) - Tennessee places "an unconstitutional burden" on minor political parties seeking places on the ballot, the Green and Constitution Parties of Tennessee claim in Federal Court.

Tennessee's Libertarian Party filed a similar lawsuit last week, claiming that Tennessee's deadlines for petition signature collection for special general elections are unconstitutional.

In the law complaint, the Green and Constitution Parties claim the state's requirements for petition signatures and number of votes for minor parties are unconstitutional. They also claim that the requirement to file an affidavit promising not to support the overthrow of the government is unconstitutional.

The parties sued Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Elections Coordinator Mark Goins.

Tennessee Code Annotated 2-1-104 requires minor parties to obtain the signatures of 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.

But a federal judge ruled in Green Party of Tenn. et al. vs. Hargett et al. that Section 2-1-104 was "unconstitutional and granted plaintiffs status as 'recognized minor parties' for the purposes of the 2012 general election," according to the complaint.

Now the parties ask that the court affirm its "prior determination" that 2-1-104 is unconstitutional.

They claims that Tennessee Code Annotated 2-13-107, which caused them to lose their status as recognized minor parties, is unconstitutional. Section 2-13-107 requires a minor party "to meet the requirements of a statewide political party" in order to "maintain recognition."

To move up from a "recognized minor party" to a "statewide political party," a party candidate must receive a number of votes equal to 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.

Tennessee Code Annotated 2-1-114 requires political parties that wish to have nominees on a ballot file "an affidavit under oath that it does not advocate the overthrow of local, state or national government by force or violence."

But even the Democratic and Republican Parties of Tennessee have not filed such an affidavit, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiffs say that demand is unconstitutional because it "impairs the free speech rights of plaintiffs and their candidates."

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

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