The Tennessee Supreme Court ruling earlier this week has cast turmoil into the May elections for at least two counties — Shelby and Knox — with early voting set to begin on April 12. The short notice leaves election commissions unable to change the ballots in time, and just last night, State Elections Coordinator Brook Thompson opined that the incumbents cannot be removed from the ballot because the election is less than 40 days away (see the Commercial Appeal).
So, people could vote for the incumbents, but if elected, they could not serve. Instead, it would be up to the local political parties to select a candidate for the August general election (county commission seats are partisan in those two counties).
If there was no opponent from the other party, whomever was selected would be the de facto winner. I’m not comfortable with that at all; it would be better to re-open the filing and let the August election go to the highest vote-getter from any party. At least that way, it would be a representative of the voters, not the political machine.
While I’m not opposed to term limits, the situation in Knox Co., where two-thirds of the county commission have been deemed ineligible, leaves the probability of a very inexperienced commission… which shifts considerable power to other officeholders and local government staff.
It will be interesting, to say the least.