The Associated Press
NASHVILLE —; The Republican leader of the House is upset with a last-minute bill on its way to Gov. Phil Bredesen that he says makes it much harder for write-in candidates to mount serious opposition to incumbents.
The bill would make it harder for a write-in candidate to win his party’s nomination if no other candidates have qualified to be on the ballot.
Candidates get their name on the ballot by filling out a petition and getting the signatures of 25 registered voters —; one of the easiest qualifying procedures in the country, state election coordinator Brook Thompson said. Most states impose other restrictions and require far more voter signatures.
Those who don’t file a petition to get on the ballot can run as write-in candidates, and they have been able to win the party nomination if they get at least 5 percent of the votes cast in the election.
The bill the Legislature passed instead would require write-in candidates to get votes equal to 5 percent of registered voters in the district —; a much higher threshold —; to become the party nominee.
In a letter to Gov. Phil Bredesen calling for a veto, House Minority Leader Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, described the measure as protection for incumbents from having to face most write-in candidates.
The bill is “a bad bill that gives us a bad name,” Dunn wrote.
“This is an incumbent protection bill, which makes it virtually impossible for anyone to mount a write-in campaign against a sitting legislator.”
Rep. Parkey Strader, Dunn’s Republican colleague from Knoxville, said he supports the move as a reasonable restriction for what is currently a lax rule.
Bredesen’s spokeswoman said he would wait to judge the final version of the bill.
If Bredesen signs it, the bill will become law in July and apply to write-in candidates in this year’s Aug. 3 primary.
The original bill dealt with several election changes, but the write-in portion appeared as a late amendment first brought by House Majority Leader Kim McMillan, D-Clarksville.
Rep. Chris Clem, R-Lookout Mountain, said the Democratic leadership allowed House members to vote for colleagues who were not in the chamber at the time.
The bill passed in the Democratic-controlled House 57-25 and in the Republican-dominated Senate 25-0.