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%.