In Tennessee, a political party is defined as an organization which nominates candidates for public office. T.C.A. § 2-1-104(a)(14). A political party may be established either statewide, within a legislative district, in the case of a special primary/general election, or solely within one (1) county.
To become a recognized minor party at the statewide level, or by legislative district, or within a single county involves the same process in each aspect, except for the actual number of signatures needed on the petition and the manner in which to maintain recognition as a minor party. In each instance, the petition must be signed by registered voters of the respective jurisdiction. The number of valid signatures must be equal to at least two and a half percent (2.5%) of the total number of votes cast for all gubernatorial candidates in the most recent election for governor within the relevant jurisdiction.
For example, because there were a total of 1,353,728 votes cast for governor in 2014, at least 33,844 registered voters of the State of Tennessee must sign the petition to form a statewide recognized minor party. (33,844 is 2.5% of 1,353,728, which was the total number of votes cast for governor in November of 2014.) However, for a special primary/general election in a legislative district, or for a single county, the number of signatures needed to form the recognized minor party will vary and be significantly lower in number. The signatures of registered voters which are needed on the particular petition will be based upon the total number of votes cast for gubernatorial candidates within either the legislative district or within the single county.
Content of the Petition
Regardless of the jurisdiction in which the political party seeks to be recognized as a minor party, the petition must be filed with the coordinator of elections and must contain certain statutory requirements.
Each page of the petition must state the purpose of the petition and state the name of the minor party. Those who sign the petition must be registered voters of the jurisdiction in which the minor party seeks recognition. However, each page of the petition must contain the names of registered voters from a single county. T.C.A. § 2-1-104(a).
Name of Minor Party
The name of the minor party shall not be, or include, the name, or any word forming any part of the name, of any statewide political party currently in existence. Also, the name of the minor party shall not include the word “independent” or “nonpartisan.” If the name of the minor party includes any prohibited word, then the coordinator of elections shall redact that portion of the minor party name and only use that portion of the minor party name which remains.
Deadline for Filing Petition
To be recognized as a statewide minor party or as a political party in a single county for a primary election, the required petition must be filed in the office of the coordinator of elections no later than twelve o’clock (12:00) noon on the qualifying deadline as established in T.C.A. § 2-5-101(a).
To be recognized as a statewide minor party or as a political party in a single county for a general election, the required petition must be filed in the office of the coordinator of elections no later than twelve o’clock (12:00) noon ninety days prior to the date on which the general election is to be held.
In the instance of a special primary/general election, to be recognized as a minor party in a legislative district, the petition must be filed no later than twelve o'clock (12:00) noon on the appropriate qualifying deadline for such special primary.
The coordinator of elections must determine the sufficiency of the petition within thirty (30) days after receipt of the filed petition.
Contact Information of Organizers Required
The petition must 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 minor political party. T.C.A. § 2-13-107.