On March 14, U.S. District Court Judge William J. Haynes, Jr., put the Green Party and the Constitution Party on the 2014 ballot in Tennessee. The case is Green Party of Tennessee v Hargett, middle district, 3:13cv-1128. Here is the 28-page decision.
The same judge had put the parties on the ballot in 2012. The two parties did not meet the 5% vote test, which, in presidential years, applies only to President. The main basis for the ruling is Equal Protection. Parties that did meet the 5% vote test are safely on the ballot for the next two elections, yet under the statute, as amended a few years ago, parties that successfully submit a petition of 2.5% of the last gubernatorial vote are only on the ballot for one election.
An alternate basis for the decision is that, because the 2.5% petition was held unconstitutional in 2012 and again in 2013, and has not yet been amended, even if the parties aren’t entitled to two elections on the Equal Protection claim, they should still be on the ballot because the petition requirement is void and the law hasn’t been amended yet. The state is appealing to the Sixth Circuit, but the case isn’t being expedited and no hearing date has been set.
The decision also strikes down the law that says newly-qualifying parties must sign a loyalty oath that they do not advocate the violent overthrow of the government. The U.S. Supreme Court had unanimously invalidated a similar Indiana law in 1974. The state’s defense had been that the state doesn’t enforce the loyalty oath.
The legislature is currently considering several ballot access bills and it is possible the legislature can pass a bill that addresses this issue and moots any more court proceedings.