VOL. 126 | NO. 9 | Thursday, January 13, 2011
March Charter Surrender Referendum Agreement Made
By Bill Dries
There will be a citywide referendum on a Memphis City Schools system charter surrender sometime no later than March 14 under terms of a consent order entered Thursday morning in Shelby County Chancery Court.
The Shelby County Election Commission and plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the Election Commission Wednesday announced the agreement before Chancellor Walter Evans.
The Election Commission will set the date at a special meeting scheduled for Wednesday. Early voting could begin in mid February.
The timing of the settlement is important said Allan Wade, attorney for the plaintiffs in the matter.
He says by starting the 45-60 day period for an election on Thursday and with a written court order to that effect by the close of business Friday at the Shelby County Courthouse, the ground rules for the election cannot be changed by state legislation.
State Senator Mark Norris of Collierville has a bill pending which would make such a consolidation a much longer process and require a countywide instead of citywide vote. Norris, the Senate Republican leader, was pushing for final fast track votes in both chambers on his legislation on Saturday in Nashville.
"With the court order ... it's our position that the city voters have a vested right to vote on the question and that that right cannot be impaired by subsequent legislation," Wade said.
The agreement came quickly after a Thursday morning phone call from State Elections Coordinator Mark Goins in Nashville to local election commission officials.
Goins reversed his legal opinion earlier this month that the election commission followed in refusing to set a date for the referendum despite a Dec. 20 MCS resolution calling for the vote. Goins said then that Memphis City Council approval was required to put the item on the ballot.
Read more about the making of the terms of the special election in Friday's edition of The Daily News.