Judge Unhappy With New Third Party Ballot Access Rules

U.S. District Judge William J. Haynes Jr. openly bristled Monday at a deputy attorney general’s attempts to defend restrictions on ballot access for small political parties in Tennessee, reports The Tennessean.
He threw out the restrictions less than 16 months ago and the Legislature responded by amending the law to lessen the restrictions. But third parties still have more hurdles to clear than Democrats or Republicans and the new, revised law is now before Haynes for another court challenge
While his annoyance was clear, Haynes did not rule on the Green and Constitution parties’ request for summary judgment in their favor after 90 minutes of oral arguments, choosing instead to take the matter under advisement. The alternative political parties sued the state in July and argue that state laws make it unconstitutionally hard for third parties to get their names on the ballot in Tennessee.
….Alan P. Woodruff, a Johnson City attorney and Democratic congressional candidate representing the third parties, told the judge that his clients have basically been denied ballot access by a requirement thehy collect more than 40,000 signatures in April to have party identity of a candidate listed on the statewide ballot. He estimated that collecting the signatures would cost $120,000.
….Haynes asked some questions but mostly listened quietly as Woodruff laid out his case. His mood changed drastically when Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter went to the podium, and he chastised the state for making arguments in defense of the new state laws that it had not presented in the previous case.
“I wish I didn’t read your brief,” Haynes said. “I’m wasting my time.”
Moving past the technical issues, Haynes noted that higher court rulings suggest the state’s deadline is unconstitutionally early, and he pressed the state to explain why it needs so much time.
“It’s a lot more complicated than it looks on paper,” responded Kleinfelter, who noted the long list of administrative tasks state and local election officials must complete and the legal requirements they must follow.
Tennessee Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins attended Monday’s hearing.
“At the end of the day, we have to comply with the MOVE Act,” he said afterward, noting that another minor party, Americans Elect, is on track to comply with state requirements. “If that deadline changes, we’re going to have a hard time doing that.”

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