The Green Party and Constitution Party may appear on the November ballot. But Libertarians are likely to be left out.
The Senate State & Local Government Committee rejected a bill Tuesday that would have vastly reduced the number of signatures minor parties must collect to appear on the ballot in Tennessee. The legislation follows a series of lawsuits brought by minor parties challenging the state's current requirement that they get about 40,000 signatures (2.5 percent of the total number of ballots cast in the most recent gubernatorial election) to be recognized.
Senate Bill 1091 would have cut that number to 2,500. Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle -- whose party is in no danger of falling off the ballot, despite its recent performance -- filed the bill and argued it was time to settle the matter.
But Republican members of the committee balked, raising objections that were philosophical (Would more parties on the ballot further coarsen political discourse?), pragmatic (Should the state get involved in an issue that's still being litigated?) or a combination of both.
"I don't want to turn our elections into a mockery where we walk into the voting both and we've got 15 different parties because all we have to do is stand in front of Kroger in each of the 95 counties and get 26 signatures," said state Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin.
The committee tied 3-3 on the vote, effectively bottling it up in committee. The next day, the House version was withdrawn from consideration, ending chances that it would be taken up this year.
The outcome means Libertarians -- to say nothing of the man who wants to run as Tea Party -- probably will have to run as "independents" again this fall. But members of the Green and Constitution parties might be in better shape. Last month a Nashville judge ruled in a suit brought by those two parties that the state's signature was too high.
Unless that ruling is overturned, they'll have a spot in November. State officials indicated, though, that they plan to appeal.