According to the Nashville Post, candidates from the major political parties only need 25 signatures to gain access to the ballot. However, “candidates wanting to run with a third-party label need more than 40,000 signatures, enough to equal 2.5 percent of the votes cast statewide in the last gubernatorial election.”
Any regular Joe can get 25 signatures. I bet I could convince 25 registered voters who walk into the Starbucks I am in right now to sign a petition to put my name on the ballot in any race that I am legally qualified. It is certainly a significant advantage for the major party candidates in which a claim of fairness couldn’t even be considered a questionable proposition.
Improving the options available to voters is just one of many variables in the equation to improve the quality of democracy in America. Even in states with so-called open primaries (like Tennessee), there are plenty of election laws that ensure the major parties maintain full control over the election process. However, the truth is elections were never meant to be in the hands of parties; they are meant to be in the hands of voters.
While Tennessee lawmakers have agreed to consider new bills to reform ballot access laws, the state is already dealing with lawsuits challenging current laws which some speculate will slow down the consideration process. Some lawmakers will be inclined to support the state while it is neck-deep in litigation while some will just want to prolong the debate as much as possible and will drag their feet on any proposed legislation to reform ballot access laws.
Tennessee voters deserve better. Voters across the country deserve better than an electoral system that denies millions equal and meaningful access to the ballot. Voters deserve more choices than two parties that have completely abandoned them.