VOL. 128 | NO. 165 | Friday, August 23, 2013
Three-Month Period Sees Spate of County Elections
By Bill Dries
Some of the early voting periods and election days will overlap in the set of 11 elections – special and regularly scheduled – in Shelby County this year.
Those elections would take place in less than a three-month period.
This fall will be a busy election season in the county, with 11 elections scheduled.
(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)
The electoral process begins Aug. 30 with early voting in the only regularly scheduled elections of 2013, in Arlington and Lakeland. The voting would end at 7 p.m. Nov. 21 in the special general election in State House District 91.
And the Nov. 21 ballot could include a citywide referendum on a half-cent sales tax hike whose date is still being discussed by Memphis leaders.
The Memphis City Council already has approved a referendum ordinance on the issue but has not set a date. City Council member Shea Flinn, a co-sponsor of the ordinance, had said he wanted an election date in October to prevent the Shelby County Commission from acting under state law and instead calling for a referendum on a countywide sales tax hike.
But Shelby County Election Commission attorney Monice Hagler said Wednesday, Aug. 21, the election date must be sometime in November and that city attorneys have “acquiesced” informally at this point to a Nov. 21 election date.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission expects to take formal receipt Friday, Aug. 23, of referendum ordinances from Shelby County’s six suburban towns and cities to hold six sets of special elections for school boards. Aldermen and commissioners in each of the six towns have approved ordinances that set the election dates for Nov. 7.
On Election Day in the suburban towns and cities, the State House District 91 general election and the city of Memphis sales tax referendum would be in the early voting period.
Decisions on a possible 12th election this year are awaiting a formal court order from Chancellor Kenny Armstrong, said attorney John Ryder.
Ryder represents the Election Commission in the lawsuit contesting a 2012 countywide school board race that Armstrong decided Monday, Aug. 19.
Armstrong ordered a new election for the District 4 seat but did not set a date, leaving that to the Election Commission. But the ruling was a memorandum opinion and not a formal court order and all sides in the case are preparing a formal court order for Armstrong to sign.
Ryder described the memorandum opinion as “essentially a finding of fact.”
“What we are looking for is something legally sufficient to constitute a final order,” he added.
Armstrong overturned the certified election results in the August 2012 District 4 school board race that showed Kevin Woods winning the seat by 106 votes over Kenneth Whalum Jr.
Armstrong cited “no concerted effort” by the Election Commission “to avoid the problems that occurred in this election.”
He also said the problems with district lines that allowed some voters outside the district to vote in the race and some voters living in the district to vote in another district race should have been anticipated.
Woods continues to hold the office until a new election is held and the Election Commission certifies the results, according to Ryder.
Once a formal order is entered, the Election Commission could set a date or one of the sides in the case could seek an appeal of the ruling to the state court of appeals as well as a stay on setting a special election. Once the order is entered, it opens a 30-day window for any side in the case to file an appeal.
With no stay of the order once it is entered, Shelby County Elections administrator Richard Holden said the District 4 school board race could possibly go on a ballot Nov. 21, the same special election date as a the state House District 91 general election contest for the seat vacated by the recent death of Lois DeBerry.
That special election date and the state House primary elections on Oct. 8 were set by a writ issued earlier this month by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
The Election Commission on Wednesday set a Sept. 18-Oct. 3 early voting period for the state House primaries at the Election Commission’s Downtown office and three satellite sites in the general area. The district has 40,000 voters across 35 precincts that stretch across the width of the city of Memphis, veering into parts of Whitehaven, Southwest Memphis and Southeast Memphis.
Two days into the early voting period in the state House District 91 primaries, it will be election day in regularly scheduled municipal elections in Lakeland and Arlington.
The day before the early voting period opens in Arlington and Lakeland, noon Aug. 29, is the deadline for candidates to file qualifying petitions in the special election for the state House seat.
Candidates in the race do not have to live in the district at the time they file but must live in the district by the primary election day.