Run as a Two-Party Candidate?

By Erik Schelzig
NASHVILLE, Tenn.– Torn between running as a Republican or a member of the tea party? Under one lawmaker’s proposal, Tennessee candidates could do both.
Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville wants to allow candidates to be listed on the ballot as the nominee of more than one political party. Their total votes would then be added up to decide the election.
Campfield is offering his amendment to a bill (SB935) designed to bring Tennessee into compliance with a federal judge’s ruling last year that the state’s qualification standards for minor parties are too burdensome.
Under the original bill proposed by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville, it would take a petition of about 40,000 signatures from registered voters to have minor party candidates’ affiliation listed on the ballot.
Democratic Sen. Jim Kyle of Memphis has instead argued for a far lower threshold of 10,000 signatures from eligible voters.
Republican Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office has raised concerns about that standard, because election officials don’t have a way to verify the signatures of people not currently registered to vote.
A full Senate vote on Norris’ bill has been delayed twice as the Kyle and Campfield amendments have been introduced. The measure is now scheduled for a vote on Thursday.

Campfield said his proposal is based on current practices in New York. “It just allows that if a third party wants to stay on the ballot, they can,” he said.
Kyle said his proposal is aimed at giving a voice to people interested in smaller parties’ platforms, and not forcing them to side with Democrats or Republicans.
“We shouldn’t be pigeonholing people,” Kyle said. “I think this is a fair and reasonable way.”
Kyle said he won’t try to stand in the way of Campfield’s proposal.
“It seems rather complicated, but if the Senate adopts it, I’m fine with it,” he said.
Third parties seeking to run statewide candidates must submit a petition signed by the equivalent of 2.5 percent of the voters in the previous governor’s election, or about 40,000 signatures. Otherwise, candidates are listed simply as independents.
U.S. District Judge William J. Haynes Jr. ruled in September that the 2.5 percent threshold meets constitutional standards, but not when combined with other requirements for the signatures to come from people who are members of the party seeking recognition on the ballot, which he said invaded voters’ privacy.
Haynes noted that Tennessee and Oklahoma are the only states where third parties have failed to qualify for the ballot over the last decade. Since Tennessee lawmakers implemented a qualification threshold in 1961, only George Wallace’s American Party has qualified for the ballot in 1968 and 1972.

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