VOL. 129 | NO. 56 | Friday, March 21, 2014
Residency Scratches Moore From Commission Ballot
By Bill Dries
Less than a month before early voting opens for the Shelby County primary elections, former Shelby County Commissioner Edith Ann Moore is off the ballot in the Democratic primary for commission District 6.
Her disqualification by the Shelby County Election Commission over questions about her residency is unusual in Shelby County politics. Candidates claiming to live where they don’t isn’t rare.
Voters heading to the polls this spring for the Shelby County primary elections will not see Edith Ann Moore’s name following her removal.
(Memphis News File/Lance Murphey)
What makes Moore’s case unusual is that five homeowners on the street where she still claims to live showed up for a special election commission meeting Wednesday, March 19, and took an oath to tell the truth and said she didn’t live there and they didn’t believe she ever intended to.
“She probably does own the house,” said Debra Ballard Wilson, who lives in the house next door. “But I’ve not seen her or anyone else living there.”
The commission initially certified Moore for the ballot two weeks earlier despite questions then, but reconsidered after new questions about whether she lives in the district that covers Raleigh, Frayser and North Memphis.
Moore claimed a boarded-up house on Gladstone in Raleigh she owns as her new home address and said she wasn’t able to live their because of a gas leak that was being repaired and other repairs to the home.
Tennessee Elections Coordinator Mark Goins, citing questions raised by the residents and others after Moore’s name was certified for the ballot, ordered the second look by the Election Commission.
The second look also included an investigation by the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office that concludes Moore’s primary residence is not on Gladstone in Raleigh but on Mensi in Frayser, which is in commission District 8.
Investigator Sgt. Brad Less cited utility bills for the property owned by Moore on Gladstone that are sent to the address on Mensi as well as talking with neighbors and visiting both houses, other public documents and canvassing both locations.
Moore said the house on Mensi belongs to her daughter and her attorneys argued her intent was to live in the Gladstone house and that the Election Commission wasn’t the proper judge of her intent.
“She is in transition,” argued Cedric Wooten, the attorney for Moore. “No one can determine her primary residence but her.”
But Election Commissioner Steve Stamson said the meaning of residency in state law is basic in this case. Stamson said he concluded Moore simply didn’t live on Gladstone and did live on Mensi.
“I don’t think Ms. Moore lived there,” he said of the Gladstone address. “I don’t think Ms. Moore intends to live there. … She lives at Mensi. I have no doubt.”
Election Commission Chairman Robert Meyers said he believed that Moore does intend to live on Gladstone but that she hadn’t completed the move to the property by the time she pulled her qualifying petition.
After the decision, Moore said she is weighing her legal options. Any attempt to appeal the commission’s decision would involve Moore filing a lawsuit in Shelby County Chancery Court.
Past disputes about residency have rarely become a challenge before the Election Commission. Rival candidates who question where another candidate in the same race lives usually rely on publicity about the question to create enough sentiment with voters in the district.
And the legal question of residency can be a fine line that depends on the office when attorneys start reaching for the Tennessee Code Annotated.
In the 2013 special election for state House District 91, neither the Democratic winner of the election, Raumesh Akbari, nor Libertarian Party candidate Jim Tomasik lived in the district when they pulled petitions to run. But under state law they could run as long as they moved into the district by election day.
That standard didn’t apply in Moore’s case.
Going even further back, the city’s best-known political family – the Fords – repeatedly listed the family’s South Memphis funeral home at 12 South Parkway as the address where they lived through the 1970s and 1980s in races for U.S. Congress, state Senate, state House and other offices. Their residency was never formally or seriously challenged and while some rivals raised questions about it, it didn’t affect the outcomes of the races they were in.