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VOL. 129 | NO. 93 | Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Martavius Jones Weighs Primary Vote Challenge

By Bill Dries

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As Memphis Democrats gathered for various campaign efforts last weekend, County Commission candidate Martavius Jones received a lot of condolences on his loss in the Democratic primary for commission District 10, and rival candidate Reginald Milton got a lot of congratulations.

Milton accepted the kudos. Jones told those who approached him that the closest race on the May county primary ballot is not over yet.

Jones is weighing a challenge of the results in which he lost to Milton by 26 votes for the right to advance to the August election ballot to face Republican Geoff Diaz and independent Chris Boyd.

The race was the last one decided in the unofficial election night results, going down to the last precinct in Shelby County, which was in District 10.

Jones would file in Chancery Court any challenge to the results once they are certified by the Shelby County Election Commission. The election commission is scheduled to certify the results at a May 21 meeting.

Jones was still reviewing the unofficial results by precinct over the weekend. He said his review shows that when the precincts are added up, the total for him, Milton and Jake Brown, the third contender in the primary, as well as write-in votes, doesn’t match the overall unofficial totals.

A challenge by Jones would be the latest election challenge in recent years.

Most of the challenges and informal complaints since 2012 have been about changes in district lines for local and state legislative offices, as well as the creation of new school board districts and boundaries for new suburban school systems.

The 2014 primary elections included races for all 13 County Commission positions as the commission prepares to be restructured to single-member districts when the winners take office Sept. 1.

Until then, the 13-member commission consists of one single-member district and four districts of three commissioners each.

Chancellor Arnold Goldin, by agreement of all parties involved in a lawsuit filed by Millington city leaders, overturned the results of the 2011 referendum on a sales tax hike to support Millington’s school system. The original results showed the tax hike lost by three votes. But Millington leaders successfully showed voters outside the city limits had been allowed to vote on the question.

Chancellor Kenny Armstrong ordered a new election in the 2012 Shelby County Schools board race between Kevin Woods and Kenneth Whalum Jr. after ruling that some voters living in the school board district had a different race on their ballots, while some voters living in other school board districts voted in the Woods-Whalum contest.

The new election order was delayed pending Woods’ appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, with Woods continuing to serve on the school board.

The case is still pending before the appeals court. But Woods recently filed a motion to dismiss Whalum’s challenge because the school board district boundaries have changed again since the decision to expand from seven members to nine and Whalum no longer lives in the new district Woods represents.

By Tennessee law, any challenge of election results hinges on the challenger showing there were voting irregularities that affected enough specific votes to change the outcome of the election in dispute.

PROPERTY SALES 90 378 5,955
MORTGAGES 91 378 6,649
BUILDING PERMITS 161 652 13,313
BANKRUPTCIES 0 1,045 4,093