VOL. 129 | NO. 98 | Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Jones Seeks Recount in Commission Race
By Bill Dries
By his count, Martavius Jones believes he and Reginald Milton are tied in their Democratic primary race for Shelby County Commission District 10. That is without adding in the five provisional ballots cast in the race.
The Shelby County Election Commission’s unofficial returns for the May primary show Milton won by 26 votes, with Jones second in the three-candidate race that also featured Jake Brown.
As the week began, Jones was formally seeking a recount before the Election Commission certifies the results of that and other races on the May ballot. The local Democratic Party’s primary board had requested the raw data from the Election Commission in the district race but has not formally sought a recount. There were varying opinions of what state law says about such a dispute.
Jones claims there is a difference between contesting an election and seeking a recount. He wants a recount before the Election Commission certifies the results, which it is scheduled to do Wednesday, May 21.
“It was my contention that we are looking at two different things. One is a recount. The other is an actual contest of the results. Under state statute, those are two different things,” Jones said. “It is my contention that the results of the recount would determine whether I would pursue to contest the results of the race.”
The documents that Jones has submitted to the Election Commission include photographs of the precinct-by-precinct tallies from all District 10 precincts except one.
“They were taken Wednesday, the day after the election. These were the tapes that were hanging at each of the polling precincts,” he said. “If my numbers are correct, the results of District 10 would be a tie. I found what I’m calling 156 phantom votes,” Jones said. “I call them phantom because they are not assigned to any of the 23 precincts in District 10. Mr. Brown received 24 of those votes. I received 53 of those votes, and Mr. Milton received 79. This would literally come down to the provisional ballots that they have not released yet.”
There is a recent legal precedent in Shelby County for delaying certification of a vote, but it was under very different circumstances.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Anderson granted a preliminary injunction in October 2010 that barred the Election Commission from certifying results in the dual referendums on a consolidation of Memphis city and Shelby County governments.
The temporary injunction was issued less than a month before city voters narrowly approved the measure and county voters outside Memphis overwhelmingly rejected consolidation.
The measure had to win in both referendums, and the lawsuit contested the state law requiring dual referendums.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit wanted a single vote count. Eventually the injunction was lifted, allowing certification of the city results and the county votes outside Memphis. The informal combined totals from both referendums showed the measure would have failed in a single countywide vote.
Earlier this year, Anderson dismissed the legal challenge.