There is big news in the ongoing battle for minor party ballot recognition in Tennessee. If you’ll recall, a federal judge struck down Tennessee’s ballot access laws as unconstitutional, after a lawsuit by the respective state entities of the Constitution Party, the Green Party, and the Libertarian Party.
As a result, the Tennessee General Assembly changed the law in 2011. However, the parties saw the change as nominal at best, and so two of them (Constitution and Green) sued again. The court agreed, and issued a ruling that covers multiple fronts. From the Tennesseean, which Richard Winger faintly praised as the only news outlet to report on the story:
[Judge William J.] Haynes declared that minor parties cannot be forced to conduct primaries, as required by state law. Plaintiffs’ Attorney Alan Woodruff says primaries are too expensive for smaller parties, and that nominating conventions would relieve that burden.
The judge enjoined the state from banning the words “independent” and “nonpartisan” in a party’s name as it appears on a ballot, stating the ban violates free speech rights.
He said the state’s requirement that major parties be listed highest on ballots followed by minor parties was unlawful. He ordered the state to hold a drawing to determine ballot order.
Winger also correctly notes that the Nashville paper left out a key element of the story, namely that, based on past petition performance, the Constitution and Green parties are automatically included on the 2012 ballot in this state:
The decision also puts the Constitution and Green Parties on the 2012 ballot, based on the evidence that in the recent past, both parties did collect several thousand signatures on petitions to get on the Tennessee ballot.
Of course, now they need to round up some candidates to run. Also, I wonder if the Tennessee Libertarian Party regrets its decision not to join in the latest lawsuit. (That said, Winger points out that they may not have been automatically ballot-qualified even if they had.)
Incidentally, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in this suit is Alan Woodruff, who is running for Congress in the 1st District—as a “Blue Dog” Democrat.