, Edited by Richard Winger
April 12, 2011

On April 12, the Tennesssee House State and Local Government Committee passed HB 794 with no amendments. This is the bill that makes minor improvements in the ballot access law for new and minor parties. The existing law was held unconstitutional last year. The bill moves the deadline from March to early April and deletes the wording on the petition that says the signers are members.

The identical bill, SB 935, will receive a vote on the Senate floor on Thursday, April 14. Already, seven amendments have been proposed to the Senate bill, all of which improve it. It is very likely that one of these amendments will pass, because both the Senate Majority Leader and the Senate Minority Leader have introduced these amendments.

Amendment #1-0, by Senator James Kyle (D-Memphis), lowers the number of signatures from 2.5% of the last gubernatorial vote (which is over 40,000 signatures) to exactly 10,000, and also lowers the vote test for a party to remain qualified from 5% to 1%, although that vote test must be met three elections in a row.

Amendment #1-1, also by Kyle, requires exactly 6,000 signatures, and says that each of 2,000 signatures must come from each of the three “Grand Divisions” of Tennessee (west, central and east Tennessee).

Amendment #2, by Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville), allows disaggregated fusion in Tennessee. Fusion is not now legal in Tennessee. “Fusion” means the ability of two parties to jointly nominate the same candidate. A candidate with support from two parties would be listed twice on the ballot, and voters could choose which party label to support.

Amendment #3, also by Campfield, keeps the number of signatures at 2.5% of the last gubernatorial vote, but says a party that is unable to qualify statewide may qualify in any U.S. House district, or any legislative district.

Amendment #4, by the bill’s sponsor, Senator Mark Norris, the Majority Leader, requires exactly 10,000 signatures.

Amendment #5, by Campfield, legalizes fusion, but only between a statewide party and a party that is only qualified in the district.

Amendment #6, by Campfield, requires 10,000 signatures and also lets a party that is unable to qualify statewide, qualify in just a single district.

With all these amendments having been introduced, it seems fairly likely that the Senate bill will be improved on April 14.


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