Procedures for Recognition as a Political Party

Signatures Required

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, solely within one (1) county, or when there is a special primary/general election to fill a vacancy in the Tennessee General Assembly, then the political party may form within the legislative district for such special primary/general election.

To become a recognized minor party, organizers must file a formation petition which is signed by registered voters of Tennessee 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 statewide recognition, the number of signatures needed is at least 2.5% of the total number of votes cast for all gubernatorial candidates in the most recent election for governor for the entire state. Because there were a total of 2,243,294 votes cast for governor in 2018, at least 56,083 registered voters of the State of Tennessee must sign the petition to form a statewide recognized minor party. (56,083 is 2.5% of 2,243,294, which was the total number of votes cast for governor in November of 2018.) Statewide recognition allows the recognized minor political party to have candidates for any federal, state or county office on the ballot which is not required to be non-partisan.

For recognition solely within one (1) county, the number of signatures needed is at least 2.5% of the total number of votes cast for all gubernatorial candidates in the most recent election for governor within the respective county in which recognition is sought. Recognition within a single county allows the recognized minor political party to have candidates for any federal, state or county office on the ballot in that county which is not required to be non-partisan whose district lines are wholly within that county. For example, if a state house legislative district consists of three counties, then a minor political party must obtain the required petition in each county which makes up the legislative district.

For recognition within a legislative district to fill a vacancy in the Tennessee General Assembly, organizers must file a formation petition containing signatures equal to at least 2.5% of the total number of votes cast for all gubernatorial candidates in the most recent election for governor within the respective legislative district. Recognition within the legislative district allows the recognized minor political party to have candidates participate in the special primary/general election which has been called for the specific legislative district having a vacancy.

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 12:00 noon on the qualifying deadline as established in T.C.A. § 2-5-101(a). For the May 3, 2022 county primary, if one is held, a petition to be recognized as a minor party within a county must be filed no later than 12:00 noon on February 17, 2022. For the August 4, 2022 federal and state primary election, a petition to be recognized as a minor party must be filed no later than 12:00 noon on April 7, 2022.

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 12:00 noon 90 days prior to the date on which the general election is to be held. For the August 4, 2022 general election, a petition to be recognized as a minor party must be filed no later than 12:00 noon on May 6, 2022. For the November 8, 2022 general election, a petition to be recognized as a minor partymust be filed no later than 12:00 noon on August 10, 2022.

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 12:00 noon on the appropriate qualifying deadline for such special primary.

The coordinator of elections must determine the sufficiency of the petition within 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.

Contact Information for the Tennessee Division of Elections:

If you have further questions regarding the process for recognizing a minor party in Tennessee, you may contact the following office:

Mark Goins, Coordinator of Elections Division of Elections
312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, 7th Floor
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: 877-850-4959