(NASHVILLE, TN), May 9, 2011 — The State Senate approved legislation today to make it easier for minor political parties to receive statewide recognition in order to place a slate of candidates on the ballot and hold a primary election. The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), allows for voters to sign the petition to place a minor party on the ballot, regardless of whether they proclaim to be a member of that party. It reverses over 25 years of Democrat-led resistance to allowing more statewide parties on the Tennessee ballot.
“This bill eases the current qualification requirements for minor parties to be recognized,” said Senator Norris. “It eases requirements for those signing the petition and simplifies the timeline required. This eases the burden and extends the franchise to more Tennesseans.”
Prior to passage of SB 935 / HB 794, Tennessee law required a minor party to gain the signatures equivalent to 2.5 percent of the total number of those voting in the most recent race for governor. The law required those signing the petition to declare their party membership. The legislation changes that so any voter may sign the petition, regardless of association with the minor party.
The bill also gives a minor party wishing to gain recognition an additional 30 days to return their petition to the State Coordinator of Elections for their slate of candidates to be placed on the ballot. Currently, a minor party’s petition must be submitted 30 days before the two major parties filing deadline. The bill allows minor parties to simultaneously submit their petition to be recognized as a party on the filing deadline set for major parties, which is the first Thursday in April.
Finally, the bill gives the State Election Coordinator’s office 30 days to verify that the 2.5 percent is a valid number for recognition. If verified, the minor party would be allowed to have a primary in August. If there are not enough valid signatures, those individuals associated with the minor party revert back to independent status, and are listed on the ballot as an independent.
“This legislation gives minor party candidates more opportunities than any time in recent state history to be placed on the ballot and properly recognized,” added Norris. “I am pleased this legislation has been approved by the House and Senate.
The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.