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VOL. 128 | NO. 121 | Friday, June 21, 2013

Suburbs Ready for Start of Early Voting

By Bill Dries

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Early voting will be a bit earlier than usual for the municipal school district referendums in Shelby County’s six suburban towns and cities.

Voters in six Shelby County suburbs have the opportunity to vote on municipal school districts beginning next week with early voting.

(Daily News/Lance Murphey)

Election Day is July 16 in each of the suburban communities holding the set of special elections with the ballot question as the only item on the ballot.

Early voting will open Wednesday, June 29, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at one location in each of three of the cities -- Arlington, Lakeland and Millington. It opens July 6 across the same houirs in Bartlette Collierville and Germantown. And voters from one city can vote at the location in another city during the early voting period, which ends July 11.

Early voting normally would start July 1, but because of the Fourth of July holiday Shelby County Elections administrator Richard Holden said it would begin a few days early. Leaders of some communities wanted a longer period because they said families would be on vacation closer to the holiday.

There is no early voting on July 3, July 4 or on Sundays at the suburban locations.

Weekday hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday early voting is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The early voting locations are at Arlington United Methodist Church, 6145 Quintard St.; Bethel Church, 5586 Stage Road in Bartlett; Collierville Church of Christ, 575 Shelton Road; New Bethel Baptist Church, 7786 Poplar Pike in Germantown; theRefuge church, 9817 Huff N Puff Road in Lakeland; and Baker Community Center, 7942 Church St. in Millington.

Early voting in the referendums opens June 26 as well Downtown at 157 Poplar Avenue from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through July 11. And it includes July 3 early voting with the same hours.

Early voting for the municipal school district referendums in Shelby County’s six suburban towns and cities opens June 26 for the July 16 Election Day.

The referendums come not quite a year after voters in all six communities approved the same ballot question as well as sales tax hikes to meet the state required minimum amount of local funding for their own school districts.

Voters in each of the suburban communities followed with school board elections for each school district in November.

Before the school board election results could be certified, though, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays voided the results of the school board races and the general ballot question on forming the school districts. Mays ruled the state law passed by the Tennessee legislature earlier in the year and signed into law by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam setting the rules for forming the school districts violated the Tennessee Constitution because it applied specifically to Shelby County. It was passed as a general law.

The sales tax increases have remained in effect because the wording did not specifically tie the question to the schools question even though suburban leaders have repeatedly said the sales tax increase revenue is for the school districts.

Earlier this year, the legislature passed and Haslam signed into law a bill that lifts the statewide ban on establishing such school districts.

Mays ruled in one part of a multi-part federal lawsuit in which the Shelby County Commission also challenges the establishment of the suburban school districts on the grounds that the school districts would lead to a racial resegregation of public schools in Shelby County.

That part of the lawsuit claims the school districts violate the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Also still pending before Mays is his decision on whether to permit the commission to change the countywide school board to a 13-member body with 13 districts instead of seven, which is the current plan as of Sept. 1.

Mays has heard arguments from all sides on the issue. He ruled earlier that the commission could create up to 13 seats but didn’t say whether the six new members could be appointed by the commission or would have to be elected.

The commission has indicated in the plan it approved that it wants to appoint the new school board members.

The countywide school board and suburban leaders opposed the appointment option in court, arguing that Mays should delay an expansion of the school board until the 2014 countywide elections. They cite the difficulty the school board has had in planning for the merger specifically because it is currently a 23-member body.

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