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VOL. 127 | NO. 164 | Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Whalum Goes To Court Over August Election

By Bill Dries

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Countywide school board member Kenneth Whalum Jr. filed suit against the Shelby County Election Commission Wednesday, Aug. 22, in the first of what are expected to be two election challenges.

Whalum is specifically contesting his loss to Kevin Woods in the District 4 countywide school board race on the Aug. 2 ballot. The 108-vote margin between Woods and Whalum was certified Monday by the election commission as it made official the results in all of the primary and general election races on the ballot.

That set the stage for possible court challenges in an election marred by widespread complaints that voters got the wrong ballots with the wrong district races on them.

State officials are investigating the conduct of the election in which local election officials admitted as many as 1,000 voters may have gotten the wrong ballots. The election commission voted down a move earlier this week to ask for the resignation of elections administrator Richard Holden over the problems.

Whalum is asking Chancellor Kenny W. Armstrong to either declare him the winner in the District 4 race or decertify and declare the District 4 results void and order a new election.

“We have been inundated with telephone calls from citizens outraged that they were either denied the right to vote or they went to the polls and received the wrong ballot,” said Whalum’s attorney, Robert Spence. “This isn’t Iraq. We don’t have little blue fingers that we voted. This is America. This is Memphis.”

Spence is seeking an expedited hearing and ruling within the next two months. Spence and Whalum said they have and are seeking more affidavits from voters to back the legal claim that there were enough election irregularities to change the outcome of the race. Both elements are the standard in Tennessee law for challenging the outcome of a certified election.

“I would not be standing here if it were just an everyday ordinary election loss. I’ve lost many times,” Whalum said. “At the very least, regardless of the outcome, we will know the answer to this question: Is Memphis better than this?”

Spence also said the legal challenge is unlike past court cases in recent years challenging results.

“In a lot of the past election challenges, there were issues about a voting machine and experts running around trying to compete with one another giving all kinds of opinion,” he said. “In this case, the problem is so basic – it’s so elementary – that I think every citizen in our community understands the enormous error that was made. They gave citizens the incorrect ballot from which to vote.”

Millington city leaders are expected to file a similar lawsuit by the end of the week contesting the results of the sales tax referendum on the ballot there. The proposed half-cent sales tax hike to fund a municipal schools district failed by three votes in the certified election results.

Millington Mayor Linda Carter said earlier this week the city has affidavits from voters in the Lucy area who have sworn that they were allowed to vote in that and other Millington races. Lucy was annexed by the city of Millington before the early voting period opened. But the area was deannexed by the board of aldermen following a lawsuit challenging the annexation. All of that happened after early voting was under way.

There were also complaints of incorrect ballots in Millington as well.

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