Sixth Circuit Sends Tennessee Ballot Access and Ballot Order Case Back to U.S. District Court for More Fact-Finding

On August 22, the Sixth Circuit issued a 24-page opinion in Green Party of Tennessee v Hargett, 13-5975. It says that the U.S. District Court should re-adjudicate the case, and should take testimony on how burdensome it is for a group to submit a petition of 2.5% of the last gubernatorial vote (currently 40,042 signatures) with a deadline in early August.

Footnote four on page sixteen says the new evidence can be from other states. It should be fairly easy for the plaintiffs, the Green Party and the Constitution Party, to use experience from other states to demonstrate that getting as many as 40,042 valid signatures is burdensome. Neither party has ever been able to petition successfully for party status in any medium-size or small state that requires that many signatures. The only states in which either party has ever been able to overcome a signature hurdle as high as 40,000 signatures are California and Texas, which happen to be the most populous and second-most populous states in the nation.

The decision does hint that the state’s rationale for requiring as many as 40,000 signatures seems unconvincing. Page 16 says, “It is a puzzling proposition that voters should be less confused by a ballot listing numerous candidates without (“without” is in italics) a party designation than by a similar ballot including party designations; the latter, at least, contains information helpful to distinguishing among lesser-known candidates.”

The decision also wants more evidence to decide the issue of whether putting the two major parties in the top spots on the ballot in all elections harms other parties and independent candidates.

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