Ballot access requirements for political candidates in Tennessee

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See also
This page contains extensive information about ballot access requirements for state and federal candidates running for elected office in the state of Tennessee. Offices included are:

This page contains information on specific filing dates for each election year, how to become a candidate, how to create a political party, campaign finance requirements, state agency contacts involved in the election process, and term limits in Tennessee. Information on running for election as a presidential candidate or for county and municipal offices is not included. This page reflects research completed in April 2014.

Note: If you have any questions or comments about this page, email us.

Year-specific dates

2014

See also: Tennessee elections, 2014

Tennessee held a primary for state and federal offices on August 7, 2014 and a general election for state and federal offices on November 4, 2014. Voters elected candidates to serve in the following state and federal offices:

The 2014 filing deadline for both partisan and independent candidates participating in the primary election and general election was April 3, 2014.[1] The deadline to submit a petition with the required signatures to qualify as a political party in time for the 2014 election was April 3, 2014.[2]

Legend:      Ballot access     Campaign finance     Election date




Dates and requirements for candidates in 2014
Deadline Event type Event description
April 3, 2014 Ballot access Filing deadline for partisan candidates running in the primary election.

Filing deadline for independent candidates running in the general election

Deadline to submit a petition to create a new political party

April 10, 2014 Campaign finance First quarter campaign finance report (ending March 31)
July 10, 2014 Campaign finance Second quarter campaign finance report (ending June 30)
July 30, 2014 Campaign finance Pre-primary report (ending July 28)
August 7, 2014 Election date Primary election date
October 10, 2014 Campaign finance Third quarter campaign finance report (ending September 30)
October 28, 2014 Campaign finance Pre-general report due (ending October 27)
November 4, 2014 Election date General election
January 25, 2014 Campaign finance Fourth quarter campaign finance report (ending January 15)

Political parties

See also: List of political parties in the United States

As of October 2013, there were only two officially recognized political parties in Tennessee.[3]

Party Website link By-laws/platform link
Republican Party Official party website
Democratic Party Official party website Party by-laws

In some states, a candidate may choose to have a label other than that of an officially recognized party appear alongside his or her name on the ballot. Such labels are called political party designations. A political party designation would be used when a candidate qualifies as an independent, but prefers to use a different label. Tennessee does not allow candidates to identify in this way. A total of 25 states allow candidates to use political party designations in non-presidential elections.[4]

The 11 states listed below (and Washington, D.C.) do not provide a process for political organizations to gain qualified status in advance of an election. Instead, in these states, an aspirant party must first field candidates using party designations. If the candidate or candidates win the requisite votes, the organization may then be recognized as an official political party. In these states, a political party can be formed only if the candidate in the general election obtains a specific number of votes. The number of votes required and type of race vary from state to state. Details can be found on the state-specific requirements pages.[5]

Process to establish a political party

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Chapter 2-13, Chapter 2-1, and Chapter 2-5 of the Tennessee Code

The Tennessee Code makes the distinction between a "statewide political party" and a "recognized minor party." A recognized minor party means any group or association that has successfully petitioned by filing with the Tennessee Coordinator of Elections a petition that conforms to requirements established by the code. Those requirements include submitting a petition with signatures equaling 2.5 percent of the total number of votes cast for governor at the last gubernatorial election. A "statewide political party" means a political party that had at least one statewide candidate in the past four calendar years receive 5 percent of the total number of votes cast for a statewide office election, such as an election for governor or U.S. Senate.[6] A statewide political party has automatic access to the ballot.

Minor party recognition
In order to become a recognized minor party, a petition must be submitted to the Tennessee Coordinator of Elections and must include the following:

  • The signatures of registered voters equal to at least 2.5 percent of the total number of votes cast for gubernatorial candidates in the most recent election for governor.[6]
  • Each page of the petition must state its purpose, state its name, and contain the signatures of registered voters from a single county.[6]

Petitions are not issued more than 90 days before the qualifying deadline. The Coordinator of Elections has the power to determine the start date for the issuance of petitions.[7]

No political party may have nominees on a ballot, or exercise any of the rights of political parties, until its officers have filed the following with the Secretary of State and with the Coordinator of Elections:

  1. An affidavit under oath that it does not advocate the overthrow of local, state or national government by force or violence and that it is not affiliated with any organization that does advocate such a policy; and
  2. A copy of the rules under which the party and its subdivisions operate. Copies of amendments or additions to the rules shall be filed with the Secretary of State and with the Coordinator of Elections within 30 days after they are adopted and shall be of no effect until 10 days after they are filed.[8]
Signature requirements to become a recognized minor party
Total number of votes cast for Governor in 2010 Number of signatures required to gain ballot access in 2014 (2.5 percent of total votes cast)
1,601,549 40,039
  • Once a non-recognized minor party submits the petition containing the required amount of signatures, the party will become an officially "recognized minor party." The 2.5 percent threshold for that petition applies to get the party on the ballot for the first time. To retain access to the ballot in subsequent election cycles, a statewide candidate for that party must achieve 5 percent of the total number of votes cast for that office, which would recognize that minor party as a "statewide political party."[6][9]
Requirements to become a statewide major party
Total number of votes cast for last statewide office (U.S. Senate in 2012) Number of votes required to maintain ballot access (5 percent of total votes cast)
2,320,189 116,010

On April 22, 2014, Governor Bill Haslam signed SB 1466 into law. The bill changed to the process by which aspirant political parties can access the ballot at the county level, lowering the petition signature requirement from 5 to 2.5 percent of the total vote cast for governor at the last election and lowering the vote test for maintaining qualified status from 20 to 5 percent of the vote cast for governor.[10]

Also, the bill included a provision for aspirant parties to qualify for ballot placement in special elections (such a provision did not exist prior to the enactment of SB 1466). Parties must submit petitions containing signatures equal to 2.5 percent of the vote cast for governor within the electoral division at the most recent election for that office. Richard Winger of Ballot Access News noted that the requirement "is wildly impractical, because generally in special elections, the time to collect signatures is short. A special U.S. House election would require the collection of approximately 4,500 valid signatures."[10]

Nomination of candidates

  • The Tennessee Code stipulates that both recognized minor parties and statewide political parties must nominate their candidates for Governor, the General Assembly, U.S. Senate and U.S. House by primary election.[11]
  • To be recognized as a minor party for purposes of nominating candidates at the primary election, the petition containing the required signatures, with the requirements stated above, must be filed no later than noon on the first Thursday of April in the office of the Coordinator of Elections. The petition shall be accompanied by the name and address of the person or the names and addresses of the members of the group or association filing the petition to form the recognized minor political party.[12][9]
    • Candidates seeking to represent the minor party in a primary election must also file nominating petitions as any other candidate for the desired office no later than noon on the first Thursday of April.
  • Within 30 days after receipt of such petition, the Coordinator of Elections shall determine the sufficiency of the petition, and if the petition is found sufficient, the minor party shall be recognized with all rights and obligations of a "recognized minor party."[12]

Events

In February 2012, a U.S. District Court struck down Tennessee's 2011 ballot access law for minor parties in a case brought by the Green Party of Tennessee and the Constitution Party of Tennessee.[13] The decision struck down the early April petition deadline as well as the over-40,000 signature requirement for minor parties seeking officially recognized status. Judge William Haynes concluded that the state's signature requirement (2.5 percent of the total votes cast in the previous election for governor) for minor parties and the early deadline for the submission of a petition to create a new political party was a violation of the Bill of Rights, United States Constitution#AmendmentIFirst Amendment.[14] The court also declared unconstitutional the requirement for minor parties to hold a primary, in light of Tennessee's status as an open primary state with no party registration. The decision placed candidates for the Constitution Party and the Green Party on the ballot in 2012, given both parties' prior attempts to collect and submit the several thousand signatures necessary to achieve ballot access. The state of Tennessee appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 2012. In November 2012, the circuit court returned the case back to the same U.S. District Court judge, which ruled again in favor for the minor parties. The state of Tennessee again appealed the decision in the Sixth Circuit, heard oral arguments on August 7, 2014.[15][16][17][18]

While the Constitution Party and the Green Party gained ballot access for the 2012 elections in Tennessee after the District Court decision, neither of the party's candidates for the U.S. Senate achieved the necessary 5 percent of the total votes cast for that office in order to retain their access to the ballot.[15][19]

In October 2013, the same District Court judge ruled in favor of Jim Tomasik, the Libertarian Party candidate in a special election for Tennessee House of Representatives District 91.[20] Prior to the ruling, the Tennessee Coordinator of Elections refused to identify Libertarian candidates or other minor party labels on the ballot due to Tennessee's ballot access laws. The judge ruled against the state of Tennessee consistent with his earlier ruling, which struck down Tennessee's stringent minor party access requirements as unconstitutional. The judge ordered Tennessee election officials to put Tomasik on the ballot as a Libertarian rather than an independent candidate.[20]

Process to become a candidate

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Chapter 2-5 and Chapter 2-7 of the Tennessee Code

State legislative candidates

Candidates running for the Tennessee legislature, both partisan and independent, will follow the same ballot access requirements.

  • Candidates must obtain a nominating petition from a county election commission office or the office of the Coordinator of Elections.[21][22]
    • The nominating petition must be signed by at least 25 voters who are registered in the candidate's State House or State Senate district, and the candidate.[21][22]
    • The signer of a petition must include the address of the signer's residence as shown on the signer's voter registration card in order for that person's signature to be counted.[22]
    • Primary and independent candidates must file their original nominating petition in the office of the county election commission by the first Thursday of April in the county of their residence and a certified duplicate in the county election commission office in each county wholly or partially within the candidate's State House or State Senate district. This requirement applies to both primary candidates running in the primary and independent candidates running in the general election.[21][22]
    • There are no filing fees.

Federal and statewide office

  • Partisan and independent candidates for Governor, U.S. House, and U.S. Senate may obtain a nominating petition from a county election commission office or the office of the Coordinator of Elections.[23][24]
    • The nominating petition must be signed by at least 25 voters who are registered anywhere in Tennessee.[23][25]
    • The signer of a petition must include the address of the signer's residence as shown on the signer's voter registration card in order for that person's signature to be counted.[22]
    • Both primary and independent candidates for Governor, U.S. House, and U.S. Senate must file their nominating petitions no later than noon on the first Thursday of April.[23][25]
    • Primary and independent candidates must file their original nominating petition in the office of the State Election Commission and a certified duplicate in the office of the Coordinator of Elections. Both of these must be received by the qualifying deadline.[23][25]
    • There are no filing fees.

For write-in candidates

  • In order for write-in ballots to be counted, a Certificate of Write-In Candidacy must be filed no later than noon on the 50th day before the general election in each county that makes up the district of the listed office.[26][27]
  • Write-in candidates must request their ballot be counted in each county of the district. Only those votes in the counties where such notice was completed and timely filed will be counted.[27]
  • No signatures are required other than the signature of the write-in candidate.[27]
  • For the offices of Governor, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives, this form must be filed with the Tennessee Coordinator of Elections.[26]

Petition requirements

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Chapter 2-5 of the Tennessee Code

In some cases, political parties and/or candidates may need to obtain signatures via the petition process to gain access to the ballot. This section outlines the laws and regulations pertaining to petitions and circulators in Tennessee.

Nominating petitions shall not be issued by any administrator, deputy, county election commissioner or employee of the coordinator's office more than 90 days before the qualifying deadline for the office for which the petition is issued. In any year where reapportionment must occur, the coordinator of elections shall determine the earliest date on which petitions may be issued.[28]

The relevant statutes do not address circulator requirements.

Campaign finance

DocumentIcon.jpg See statutes: Chapter 2-10 of the Tennessee Code

  • Every candidate must certify the name and address of his or her treasurer to the Registry of Election Finance before the candidate may receive a contribution or make an expenditure in an election. A candidate may serve as that candidate's own political treasurer.[29][30]
  • Any subsequent financial statements and reports filed must be co-signed by the candidate, if such candidate appoints a political treasurer other than the candidate.[29]
  • All candidates must submit financial statements of all contributions and expenditures with the Registry of Election Finance throughout the election cycle. These statements must include the dates for each contribution and expenditure.
  • Separate campaign financial reporting is required for both primary elections and general elections.[29]
  • Candidates are exempt from filing a detailed disclosure statement if neither contributions received nor expenditures made during a reporting period for which a statement is submitted exceed $1,000. The candidate must still report the balance of contributions on hand, outstanding loans and outstanding obligations.[31]
Figure 1: This is the Campaign Financial Disclosure Statement Form for state and local candidates.
  • In addition to the filing of regular campaign finance statements, beginning with the tenth day prior to a primary, general, runoff or special election up to the date of the election, each candidate must file a report with the registry of election finance of the following:
    • The full name and address of each person from whom the candidate or committee has received and accepted a contribution, loan or transfer of funds during such period and the date of the receipt of each contribution in excess of $5,000 for a state legislative or statewide office.[29]

Below are the kinds of contributions and expenditures that must be reported on each campaign finance statement:

  • Contributions: Candidates are required to list the full name, complete address, amount, date of receipt of contribution, and the election for which the contribution was made for each person or organization who contributes a total of more than $100 during a reporting period. $100 contributions or less may be totaled and reported as a single item.[31]
  • Expenditures: Expenditures totaling $100 or less are not required to be itemized. For expenditures more than $100 during a reporting period, the full name, complete address, amount, and detailed purpose for each person or organization to whom a total of more than $100 was paid.[31]
  • Loans: Itemized information must be provided for all loans for more than $100 from one creditor during a reporting period. The full name and address of each creditor, and the date that the loan was made, must also be provided.

Reporting schedule

Deadline Report Report end date
April 10, 2014 First quarter March 31, 2014
July 10, 2014 Second quarter June 30, 2014
July 30, 2014 (7 days before primary election) Pre-primary report July 28, 2014
October 10, 2014 Third quarter September 30, 2014
October 28, 2014 (7 days before the general election) Pre-general report October 27, 2014
January 25, 2015 Fourth quarter January 15, 2015

Contribution limits
There are limits on how much a person may contribute to a candidate's campaign, per election, and how much a candidate may accept for an election. Those dollar limitations are based on the office sought by the candidate.[32] Those limits are as follows:

Office sought Contribution limit from persons Contribution limit from PACs Total contribution limits from PACs Total contribution limits from political party PACs
Governor $3,800 $11,200 50% of total contributions $374,300
State Senate $1,500 $11,200 $112,300 $59,900
State House and local office $1,500 $7,400 $112,300 $30,000

Election-related agencies

See also: State election agencies

Candidates running for office will require some form of interaction with the following agencies:

  • Tennessee Secretary of State-Division of Elections
Why: This agency provides and processes candidacy forms and qualifying petitions.
312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue
9th Floor, William Snodgrass Tower
Nashville, Tennessee 37243-0309
Phone: 615.741.7956
Toll-Free: 1.877.850.4959
Website: http://www.state.tn.us/sos/election/index.htm
E-Mail: tennessee.elections@tn.gov
  • Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance
Why: This agency processes campaign finance reports.
404 James Robertson Parkway, Suite 104
Nashville, Tennessee 37243
Phone: (615)741-7959
Website: http://www.state.tn.us/tref/

Counties

See also: Counties in Tennessee

Candidates must obtain petitions from a county election commission office or the office of the Coordinator of Elections. Candidates must also file their original nominating petition in the office of the county election commission in the county of their residence. Individual county contact information can be found below. In the table below, if a website is not provided it is because one does not exist for this municipality. To provide a link or information for the table below, please email us.

Term limits

State executives

Portal:State Executive Officials
See also: State executives with term limits and States with gubernatorial term limits

The state executive term limits in Tennessee are as follows:[33]

There were no term-limited state executive officials in 2014.

State legislators

See also: State legislatures with term limits

There are no term limits placed on Tennessee state legislators.

Congressional partisanship

Portal:Congress
See also: List of United States Representatives from Tennessee and List of United States Senators from Tennessee

Here is the current partisan breakdown of the congressional members from Tennessee:

Congressional Partisan Breakdown from Tennessee
Party U.S. Senate U.S. House Total
     Democratic Party 0 2 2
     Republican Party 2 7 9
TOTALS as of December 2014 2 9 11

State legislative partisanship

Portal:State legislatures

Here is the current partisan breakdown of members of the state legislature of Tennessee:

State Senate

Party As of December 2014
     Democratic Party 5
     Republican Party 28
Total 33

State House

Party As of December 2014
     Democratic Party 26
     Republican Party 73
Total 99


Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Tennessee + ballot + access"

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

Tennessee ballot access news feed

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See also

External links

Official state and federal links

Forms

Other information

References

  1. Tennessee Secretary of State, "2014 Candidate Dates," accessed November 4, 2013
  2. Ballotpedia phone correspondence with Tennessee Secretary of State Office, October 9, 2013
  3. Ballotpedia phone call with Tennessee Secretary of State's Office, September 9, 2013
  4. Tennessee Code, "Title 2: Section 5-203," accessed December 5, 2013
  5. E-mail consultation with ballot access expert Richard Winger in January 2014.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Tennessee Code, "Chapter 2-1-104," accessed February 20, 2014
  7. Tennessee Code, "Chapter 2-5-102," accessed February 27, 2014
  8. Tennessee Code, "Chapter 2-1-114," accessed February 22, 2014
  9. 9.0 9.1 Based on research conducted by Ballotpedia staff in October 2013. This included phone calls to the 50 states and analysis of the state political party websites.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Ballot Access News, "Tennessee Governor Signs Bill Making Minor Ballot Access Improvements," April 24, 2014
  11. Tennessee Code, "Chapter 2-13-202," accessed February 26, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 Tennessee Code, "Chapter 2-13-107," accessed November 29, 2013
  13. Ballot Access News, "Tennessee Ballot Access Law for New and Minor Parties Struck Down," February 3, 2012
  14. Ballot Access News, "Green Party of Tennessee and Constitution Party of Tennessee v. Hargett (2012)," February 3, 2012
  15. 15.0 15.1 Green Party of Tennessee, "Ballot Access Suit and New Legislation," October 20, 2013
  16. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, "Green Party of Tennessee and Constitution Party of Tennessee v. Hargett (2012)," November 30, 2012
  17. Ballot Access News, "Sixth Circuit Sets Oral Argument in Tennessee Ballot Access Case," July 18, 2014
  18. Ballot Access News, "Sixth Circuit Holds Oral Argument in Tennessee Ballot Access Case," August 7, 2014
  19. Tennessee Code, "Chapter 2-1-104," accessed February 20, 2014
  20. 20.0 20.1 Libertarian Party, "Libertarians win historic court case putting partisan LP Tennessee candidates on ballot," November 13, 2013
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Tennessee Department of Elections, "Qualifying Procedures for Candidates for Tennessee House of Representatives," accessed October 31, 2013
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 Tennessee Code, "Chapter 2-5-101," accessed February 22, 2014
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 Tennessee Department of Elections, "Qualifying Procedures for Candidates for Governor," accessed November 26, 2013
  24. Tennessee Code, "Chapter 2-5-103," accessed February 24, 2014
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 Tennessee Secretary of State, "Tennessee Candidates for United States Senate," accessed February 25, 2014
  26. 26.0 26.1 Tennessee Department of Elections, "Write-In Candidacy," accessed October 31, 2013
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 Tennessee Code, "Chapter 2-7-133," accessed February 24, 2014
  28. Tennessee Code, "Chapter 2-5-102," accessed February 26, 2014
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 Tennessee Code, "Chapter 2-10-105," accessed February 26, 2014
  30. Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, "Campaign Finance Guide for Candidates," accessed November 26, 2013
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 Tennessee Code, "Chapter 2-10-107," accessed February 26, 2014
  32. Tennessee Code, "Chapter 2-10-301," accessed February 26, 2014
  33. Tennessee Secretary of State "Tennessee Constitution," accessed November 4, 2013