In August, the county saw three parties on the ballot and the state election had two; republican and democrat. In November, the same is expected – three parties per office — despite there being at least 32 distinct ballot-qualified political parties in the United States.
In Tennessee, parties that are not republican, democrat or independent must gather 33,844 signatures to be featured on the ballot as their chosen party. Compare this to the 25 signatures needed for republicans, democrats and independents and the trend is clear; specific parties get left off the ballots and more independents run.
However, a decision from July 2015 made by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, that Tennessee's requirements for third parties violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The decision means the state requirements to get candidates on the ballot cannot be enforced, yet Libertarian Vinnie Vineyard still needs to collect signatures.
In three hours at a signature collecting event, the hopeful governor candidate collected 37 signatures.
“We have to have people who aren’t celebrities and saying outlandish things to get votes – these parties need to be presented as people as legitimate choices,” Vineyard said about minor third parties.
Because he is in a third party, his name did not appear on the Aug. 2 ballot, however he received 1,329 write-in votes across the state, placing him above Republican Basil Marceaux.
While he is running to win, he has a secondary objective; raise awareness for the difficulties third parties face when trying to get on the ballot.
“This is set up by the republicans and democrats to confuse the voters because what they want is someone with D or R next to their name,” Vineyard explained. “The average voter doesn’t have time to research everyone who is voting…you have no idea and this is intentional.”
He added that voters would have no idea if the numerous independent candidates are farmers, Nazis, politicians or the average Joe. He claims this is intentional to keep the focus on the candidates of the major two parties.
“We’re warned about wolves in sheep’s clothing and this is what it is – I think that’s why most people don’t vote,” he said.
Vineyard wants voters to know that the political spectrum isn’t two dimensional. He finds that because he does not conform to republican or democratic ideas, people have a hard time identifying who he is as a politician.
“There’s not just two ways to think,” he said. “There’s an unlimited way to think. Political dimension exists on a sphere, not just on a line.”
Other third parties include the Green Party, America First Party, Libertarians and more.
Libertarians believe in reducing government involvement, decriminalizing drugs such as marijuana, favor same-sex marriage and are typically pro-gun. Their slogan is “The party of principal.”
To follow Vineyard’s movement, visit his website www. BelieveInTheFUNK.com
Vineyard’s name may be familiar to some — before entering politics, he was a famous wrestler, a ghost hunter no television and a musician under the guise of Funkmaster V. Today, he runs FunkMaster V’s Uptown Cabs of Renown and Big ‘N Funky Productions in Sevier County.
He is married to his wife of 17 years, Julie, and they have one daughter, Greta.
He is running on pro-legalization of marijuana, anti-war, anti-crony capitalism (business success depends on close relationships with government officials), ballot access reform, and is pro First Amendment and Second Amendment.
The 43-year-old will be running as an independent in November.
The State General election is on Nov. 6. This election will determine who will be state governor, on the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives representing Tennessee and state executive committeeman and woman.
Republican Bill Lee will be facing democrat Karl Dean, as well as any independent candidates and other third parties.
In the Senate, republican Marsha Blackburn is facing democrat Phil Bredesen. The House candidates are (R) John Rose and (D) Dawn Barlow.
Committeeman candidates are (R) Jerry Anderson and (D) Robin Smith, and for committeewoman are (R) Joanna Davis and (D) Betty Fraley.