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Sixth Circuit Holds Oral Argument in Tennessee Ballot Access Case

On August 7, the Sixth Circuit heard oral argument in Green Party of Tennessee v Hargett, 12-5975. The issues are: (1) is the 2.5% petition (of the last gubernatorial vote) for newly-qualifying parties constitutional, given that independent candidates only need 25 signatures?; (2) is the law putting the major party nominees on the top spot on the ballot constitutional?

Thirty minutes had been allotted for this case, but the court actually took 45 minutes. Anyone can listen to the oral argument at this link, from the Sixth Circuit’s web page.

The attorney for Tennessee spoke first, and she was also permitted to speak again at the end of the hearing, for approximately five minutes. During her rebuttal five-minute period, she was asked about the ballot order issue. She said that in partisan general elections, the order of candidates is not important, because in partisan general elections, the single most important factor for a voter to decide how to vote is the party label. Of course, that statement merely supports the minor parties’ point that when they are forced to qualify their candidates as independents, which means they don’t have their party label on the ballot, that they are being significantly harmed.

The three judges were R. Guy Cole, Deborah L. Cook, and Helene White. Judge White asked the most questions and seemed to feel that the plaintiffs are correct when they argue that the state has no real interest in requiring 40,000 signatures for minor parties, when independent candidates only need 25.

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