Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, Case No. 3:11–0692.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
Writing for the CourtWILLIAM J. HAYNES
Citation882 F.Supp.2d 959
PartiesGREEN PARTY OF TENNESSEE Constitution Party of Tennessee, Plaintiffs, v. Tre HARGETT in his official capacity as Tennessee Secretary of State, and Mark Goins in his official capacity as Coordinator of Elections for the State of Tennessee, Defendants.
Decision Date03 February 2012
Docket NumberCase No. 3:11–0692.

882 F.Supp.2d 959

GREEN PARTY OF TENNESSEE Constitution Party of Tennessee, Plaintiffs,
v.
Tre HARGETT in his official capacity as Tennessee Secretary of State, and Mark Goins in his official capacity as Coordinator of Elections for the State of Tennessee, Defendants.

Case No. 3:11–0692.

United States District Court,
M.D. Tennessee,
Nashville Division.

Feb. 3, 2012.






Held Unconstitutional
West's T.C.A. §§ 2–1–104(a)(24), 2–1–104(a)(29)(B), 2–5–208(d)(1), 2–13–107(d), 2–13–202

Unconstitutional as Applied


West's T.C.A. §§ 2–5–101(a)(1, 2), 2–13–201(a)

[882 F.Supp.2d 964]

Alan P. Woodruff, Johnston City, TN, Darrell L. Castle, Darrell Castle & Associates PLLC, Memphis, TN, for Plaintiffs.


Janet M. Kleinfelter, Tennessee Attorney General's Office, Nashville, TN, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM J. HAYNES, JR., District Judge.
+-----------------+
                ¦TABLE OF CONTENTS¦
                +-----------------+
                
+--------------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦
                +--+------------------------------------------+----¦
                ¦A.¦Findings of Fact ¦968 ¦
                +--------------------------------------------------+
                
+------------------------------------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦1. ¦Plaintiffs ¦968 ¦
                +---+---+---------------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦ ¦2. ¦History of Minor Political Parties in Tennessee Elections¦969 ¦
                +---+---+---------------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦ ¦3. ¦Tennessee's Current Ballot Access Process ¦970 ¦
                +---+---+---------------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦ ¦4. ¦Parties' Expert Proof ¦976 ¦
                +------------------------------------------------------------------------+
                
+----------------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦ ¦a.¦Plaintiffs' Expert ¦976 ¦
                +--+--+--+--------------------------------------+----¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦b.¦Defendants' Experts ¦978 ¦
                +----------------------------------------------------+
                
+--------------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦
                +--+------------------------------------------+----¦
                ¦B.¦Conclusions of Law ¦986 ¦
                +--------------------------------------------------+
                
+---------------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦1.¦Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel ¦990 ¦
                +--+--+----------------------------------------+----¦
                ¦ ¦2.¦Standing ¦992 ¦
                +--+--+----------------------------------------+----¦
                ¦ ¦3.¦First Amendment Claims ¦994 ¦
                +---------------------------------------------------+
                
+----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦ ¦a. ¦Tennessee's Party membership Requirement ¦1000 ¦
                +---+---+---+--------------------------------------------------------+-------¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦b. ¦The Primary Requirement ¦1003 ¦
                +---+---+---+--------------------------------------------------------+-------¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦c. ¦The 2.5% Signature Requirement ¦1005 ¦
                +---+---+---+--------------------------------------------------------+-------¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦d. ¦The 119 Day Deadline ¦1010 ¦
                +---+---+---+--------------------------------------------------------+-------¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦e. ¦The Majority Party's Ballot Preference ¦1014 ¦
                +---+---+---+--------------------------------------------------------+-------¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦f. ¦The Bar of “Nonpartisan or Independent” in Political ¦1016 ¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦Parties' Names ¦ ¦
                +---+---+---+--------------------------------------------------------+-------¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦g. ¦Plaintiffs' Nondelegation Claim ¦1017 ¦
                +---+---+---+--------------------------------------------------------+-------¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦h. ¦Vagueness Claim ¦1018 ¦
                +----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
                
+--------------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦
                +--+------------------------------------------+----¦
                ¦C.¦Conclusion ¦1019¦
                +--------------------------------------------------+
                

[882 F.Supp.2d 965]

Plaintiffs, Green Party of Tennessee (“GPT”), and Constitution Party of Tennessee (“CPT”), filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Defendants: Tre Hargett, Tennessee Secretary of State, and Mark Goins, Tennessee's Coordinator of Elections. Plaintiffs are political parties seeking recognition and ballot access for their candidates in federal and state elections. The gravamen of Plaintiffs' complaint is that certain provisions of Tennessee's recently enacted ballot access statutes effectively exclude minor political parties from achieving recognition as a political party and ballot access for their candidates in violation of their First Amendment rights to vote, to express their political speech and to associate as a political party. Plaintiffs also assert a claim under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment for the State's preferential placement of certain party's candidates on the ballot.

Plaintiffs' specific claims are: (1) that Tenn.Code Ann. §§ 2–5–101(a), 2–1–104(a)(24) and 2–3–107(a) effectively deny Plaintiffs the ability to qualify as a “Recognized minor party” and impose impermissible burdens on Plaintiffs' First Amendment right to associate as a political party; (2) that Tenn.Code Ann. § 2–1–104(a)(24)'s requirements for a “Recognized minor party” are unconstitutionally vague and constitute an improper delegation of undefined legislative authority to State election officials; (3) that Tenn.Code Ann. § 2–5–101(a)(1) setting a 119 day deadline for minor political parties' petitions for ballot access for its candidates, approximately four months prior to the primary, is unconstitutional as a matter of law; (4) that Tenn.Code Ann. § 2–13–202, requiring minority political parties to nominate their candidates for statewide offices by primary elections, intrudes upon Plaintiffs' First Amendment right to select their nominees and to control their internal affairs; and (5) that Tenn.Code Ann. § 2–5–208(d)(1), awarding a preferential position on the ballot to the current majority party, discriminates against Plaintiffs in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

This action is a sequel to an earlier action, Libertarian Party of Tennessee v. Goins, 793 F.Supp.2d 1064 (M.D.Tenn.2010), holding that Tenn.Code Ann. § 2–1–104(a)(30) violates Plaintiffs' First Amendment right to vote, Tennessee voters' First Amendment right to privacy of their political affiliation, and Plaintiffs' First Amendment right to associate as a political party. The Court concluded that Plaintiffs demonstrated that Tennessee's 2.5% requirement

[882 F.Supp.2d 966]

in Section 2–1–104(a)(29), coupled with the party membership requirement in Section 2–1–104(a)(30) and the State's election officials' 120 1 day deadline prior to the August primaries for petitions of new political parties, effectively precluded minor political party participation in state and national elections in Tennessee.2 The Defendants did not appeal that decision, but the Tennessee General Assembly enacted changes to the State's ballot access laws that are at issue in this action.

Before the Court are the Plaintiffs' motions for summary judgment supported by their expert's report contending, in sum:

(1) that Tenn.Code Ann. § 2–1–104(a)(24) defining a “Recognized minor party” as a party supported by 2.5% of the voters in the last gubernatorial election, imposes impermissible burdens on Plaintiffs' First Amendment right to associate as a political party;

(2) that Tenn.Code Ann. § 2–1–104(a)(24), is unconstitutionally vague and constitutes an improper delegation of undefined authority to State election officials;

(3) that Tenn.Code Ann. § 2–5–101(a)(1) setting a 119 day deadline prior to the August primaries for minor political parties' petitions for recognition and ballot access for its candidates effectively excludes Plaintiffs and is unconstitutional as a matter of law;

(4) that Tenn.Code Ann. § 2–13–107(d) barring minor political parties from using the terms “Nonpartisan or Independent” in their party's names violates Plaintiffs' First Amendment rights of free speech;

(5) that State election forms for candidates requiring signatories to a party nominee's petition to declare that the signatories are members of that party violates Plaintiffs' and voters' First Amendment rights to privacy of political beliefs; and

(6) that Tenn.Code Ann. § 2–5–208(d)(10), awarding preferential position on the ballot to the State's majority political party, discriminates against Plaintiffs in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

(Docket Entry Nos. 19 and 20).


In response, Defendants submit affidavits of experts, as well as state and local election officials, contending that these state laws serve the following state interests:

“(1) requiring potential candidates to show some minimum level of support of their candidacy by the electorate; (2) halting the waste and confusion that might otherwise result from a lack of that showing; (3) avoiding disruption of the ballot and election preparation process; (4) assuring honest elections; and (5) avoiding disruption of ongoing voter education, poll worker training, and impending responsibilities to assure ballot accuracy and timely distribution of absentee ballots.”

(Docket Entry No. 36, Defendants' Memorandum at 15). Defendants also contend

[882 F.Supp.2d 967]

with the prior ruling in Goins that the res judicata doctrine precludes Plaintiffs' challenge to the state law requiring political parties to select candidates for all statewide offices by primaries. Defendants' experts opine, in essence, that Tennessee's ballot access laws do not burden minor political parties' ballot access and that the minor political parties' poor political outcomes in Tennessee are the cause of their lack of ballot access. According to defense experts, those outcomes show that ballot access for minor political parties' efforts at party recognition are acts of political futility, not state laws. Defendants' experts assert that America's “winner takes all” election rules cause voters to engage in strategic voting and thereby elect candidates of either the Democratic or Republican party that eventually absorb minor...

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20 practice notes
  • Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, Nos. 13–5975
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • August 22, 2014
    ...is addressed in a prior opinion from this court, as well as two district court opinions. See Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, 882 F.Supp.2d 959 (M.D.Tenn.2012) (Green Party I ), rev'd, 700 F.3d 816 (6th Cir.2012) (Green Party ), remanded to 953 F.Supp.2d 816 (M.D.Tenn.2013) (Green Party II ......
  • Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, Nos. 13–5975
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • August 22, 2014
    ...is addressed in a prior opinion from this court, as well as two district court opinions. See Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, 882 F.Supp.2d 959 (M.D.Tenn.2012) (Green Party I ), rev'd, 700 F.3d 816 (6th Cir.2012) (Green Party ), remanded to 953 F.Supp.2d 816 (M.D.Tenn.2013) ( Green Party II......
  • Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, Nos. 13–5975
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • August 22, 2014
    ...is addressed in a prior opinion from this court, as well as two district court opinions. See Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, 882 F.Supp.2d 959 (M.D.Tenn.2012) ( Green Party I ), rev'd, 700 F.3d 816 (6th Cir.2012) ( Green Party ), remanded to 953 F.Supp.2d 816 (M.D.Tenn.2013) ( Green Party ......
  • Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, NOS. 3:11-cv-692
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • August 17, 2016
    ...953 F. Supp. 2d 816 (M.D. Tenn. 2013) (Green Party II ), vacated by, Green Party V, 767 F.3d 533; Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, 882 F. Supp. 2d 959 (M.D. Tenn. 2012) (Green Party I), reversed by Green Party IV, 700 F.3d at 816.2 1. This Case (2011 Case) The legal issues presented in this......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
20 cases
  • Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, Nos. 13–5975
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • August 22, 2014
    ...is addressed in a prior opinion from this court, as well as two district court opinions. See Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, 882 F.Supp.2d 959 (M.D.Tenn.2012) (Green Party I ), rev'd, 700 F.3d 816 (6th Cir.2012) (Green Party ), remanded to 953 F.Supp.2d 816 (M.D.Tenn.2013) (Green Party II ......
  • Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, Nos. 13–5975
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • August 22, 2014
    ...is addressed in a prior opinion from this court, as well as two district court opinions. See Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, 882 F.Supp.2d 959 (M.D.Tenn.2012) (Green Party I ), rev'd, 700 F.3d 816 (6th Cir.2012) (Green Party ), remanded to 953 F.Supp.2d 816 (M.D.Tenn.2013) ( Green Party II......
  • Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, Nos. 13–5975
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • August 22, 2014
    ...is addressed in a prior opinion from this court, as well as two district court opinions. See Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, 882 F.Supp.2d 959 (M.D.Tenn.2012) ( Green Party I ), rev'd, 700 F.3d 816 (6th Cir.2012) ( Green Party ), remanded to 953 F.Supp.2d 816 (M.D.Tenn.2013) ( Green Party ......
  • Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, NOS. 3:11-cv-692
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • August 17, 2016
    ...953 F. Supp. 2d 816 (M.D. Tenn. 2013) (Green Party II ), vacated by, Green Party V, 767 F.3d 533; Green Party of Tenn. v. Hargett, 882 F. Supp. 2d 959 (M.D. Tenn. 2012) (Green Party I), reversed by Green Party IV, 700 F.3d at 816.2 1. This Case (2011 Case) The legal issues presented in this......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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