Tennessee Election Returns for Green Congressional Candidates Show the Value of Having Party Label on the Ballot

Lawsuits are pending in Alabama and Tennessee in which the state argues that having party labels on the ballot for minor party nominees is not helpful to those nominees. However, the Tennessee election returns for 2012, when compared to past election returns, dramatically show that a party label increases the vote for minor parties. This is especially true when one looks at the results for the Green Party in Tennessee.

The Green Party has had U.S. Senate nominees on the ballot in Tennessee four times in history: In 2006 and 2008, its nominees had “independent” on the ballot, and polled, respectively, .14% and .38%.

But, in 2012, the Green Party U.S. Senate nominee, Martin Pleasant, had “Green” on the ballot, and he polled 1.66%. While that was not a hugely impressive percentage, it is the largest percentage of the vote any minor party candidate for U.S. Senate in Tennessee has received since 1978. Also, in 2000, under a strange law that only affected the 2000 election, the Green Party U.S. Senate nominee was on the ballot as “Green/independent candidate” and he got 1.34%.

Similar results are apparent for the Green Party’s U.S. House candidates in Tennessee. In 2002, 2006, 2008, and 2010, the party had candidates for U.S. House on the ballot with the label “independent.” The 2002 candidate received .71%; the two 2006 candidates received .58% and .78%; the 2008 candidate received 1.16%; and the 2010 candidate got .22%. But in 2012, with the party label on the ballot, the five Greens for U.S. House received: 1.20%; 2.17%; 1.98%; 8.97% (this was a district with no Democrat on the ballot); and 1.80%.

Other minor party U.S. Senate candidates in Tennessee 1980 through 2010, all of whom had the label “independent”, never did as well as the 2012 Green nominee for U.S. Senate. The Libertarian Party has had these U.S. Senate showings in Tennessee: 1996, .23%; 2008, .39%; 2012, .90%. The Natural Law Party U.S. Senate showings have been: 1994, .15%; 1996, .33%. The Populist Party had a U.S. Senate candidate in Tennessee in 1990 who polled 1.02%.


Tennessee Election Returns for Green Congressional Candidates Show the Value of Having Party Label on the Ballot — 11 Comments

  1. I asked the assistant ag during the deposition , w.o. party labels could she tell me anything about Virgil Goode, Gary Johnson or Jill Stein? She smiled…

  2. jcass, exactly so. We do not live 250 years ago. Voters in many (perhaps most) cases do not know very much, if anything, about individual candidates. There are simply too many political offices and their time is limited. Political parties, even 200 years ago, became an important branding technique in politics, the same function they serve in the grocery store if a consumer chooses to avail themselves of that shortcut method (and many do) of selection. The government officials who run the electoral machinery in the states know this very well. That’s why, in addition to throwing up ballot access roadblocks, they create methods to inhibit party labeling.

  3. If there were not party labels on the ballot, the political parties and others would print guides, just as they do for partisan primaries and non-partisan elections.

  4. @6. Indeed. South Carolina had party-printed ballots until after World War II. The practice was apparently common in the 19th c. SC was the last state to allow parties to distribute ballots for voting. The reason, naturally enough, was to perpetuate single party dominance. Only the Democratic Party had the resources to distribute the ballots.

  5. Who was the populist candidtae for the senate in 1990 in tn?i follow politics rather close and i dont remember any such candidate

  6. #9, Charles Gordon Vick was the Populist Party candidate for US Senate in 1990 in Tennessee.

  7. I think it certainly helps we Libertarians to have the party listed. In fact, I fail to see how knowledge hurts anyone.

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