Tennessee Legislature Passes Very Modest Ballot Access Improvement Bill

On April 7, the Tennessee legislature passed SB 1466. It makes two small ballot access improvements. For a newly-qualifying party that just wants to be on the ballot in a single county, the petition is lowered from 5% of the last gubernatorial vote, to 2.5%. The vote test for a county party to remain ballot-qualified falls from 20% to 5%.

Also, the bill says that when Tennessee holds a special election, a previously unqualified party can get on the ballot for that special election if it submits a petition of 2.5% of the last gubernatorial election within that district. Previously, there was no procedure for an unqualified party to get on the ballot in a special election. The procedure established by SB 1466 is wildly impractical. If Tennessee were to hold a special congressional election, the new formula would require approximately 4,500 valid signatures in the typical district, and the petitioning period would probably be only a few weeks.

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