NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would make it easier for more political parties to be placed on the ballot in Tennessee is headed to the governor for his consideration after passing the Senate on Monday.
The measure sponsored by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville (HB794) was approved 24-9. The House unanimously approved the companion bill 92-0 last month.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to review the measure but hasn’t said if he’ll sign it. (Prediction: He will.)
Current law requires a minor party to gain the signatures equivalent to 2.5 percent — or about 40,000 — of the total number of those voting in the most recent race for governor, and it requires those signing the petition to declare their party membership.
The proposal changes that so any voter may sign the petition, regardless of association with the minor party.
The bill also gives a minor party an additional 30 days to return its petition to the state’s election coordinator for its slate of candidates to be placed on the ballot.
“This legislation gives minor party candidates more opportunities than any time in recent state history to be placed on the ballot and properly recognized,” Norris said. “It eases requirements for those signing the petition and simplifies the timeline required.”
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis tried unsuccessfully to pass an amendment that would have required 10,000 signatures.
“I ask that we give those citizens who would like to participate … an opportunity,” Kyle said.
A Gallup poll released Monday found that 52 percent of Americans support a third major party because they believe Democrats and Republicans are doing a poor job of representing the people.
Support for a third national party was 68 percent among those identifying themselves as independents, followed by 52 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats. Sixty percent of tea party supporters said they favor a third party.
The results of the telephone poll were based on interviews of 1,013 adults between April 20 to April 23. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.