Friday, October 5, 2018

Plaintiffs Seek to Alter or Remove Two Referenda on November 6 Ballot

Referendum to lengthen term limits and one to repeal Ranked Choice Voting (aka Instant Runoff Voting) are cited for "materially misleading" language and lack of state-required fiscal impact statement.

Posted By on Fri, Oct 5, 2018 at 4:29 PM

click to enlarge Attorney Randall Fishman backgrounds reporters on election suit as plaintiffs look on. - JB
  • JB
  • Attorney Randall Fishman backgrounds reporters on election suit as plaintiffs look on.

The courtroom of Chancellor Jim Kyle, which has seen its share of adjudications regarding controversial public issues, will be the site of another one next Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

The nonprofit organization, “Save IRV”, and four potential city council candidates in the election of 2019 are suing the city and the Shelby County Election Commission, seeking a a declaratory judgment and injunction against two referenda on the forthcoming election ballot of November 6th.

The two referenda are Ordinance 5669, which would repeal a previous ordinance passed in 2008 allowing Ranked Choice Voting (aka Instant Runoff Voting) to be employed in city elections; and Ordinance 5677, which would abolish altogether the use of runoffs to settle city elections in which there is no majority winner.

In the case of both ordinances, the plaintiffs — Erika Sugarmon, John Marek, Sam Goff, Raquel Collins Milinkovich, and Save IRV — seek a temporary injunction mandating the correction of “materially misleading language” that would result in “incurable inconsistency” if both should be passed. In the case of Ordinance 5669, the plaintiffs seek a further revision to provide a fiscal impact statement required by state law in the case of “amendments to the charter of a home rule municipality.”

Should these corrections not be feasible, the plaintiffs ask as an alternative that the two ordinances be struck from the ballot.

As explained to reporters on Friday afternoon, the plaintiffs’ petition for relief states several points of confusion in Ordinance 5677 — most obviously that it prescribes a limitation of three four-year terms for the mayor and city council members in Memphis city government, and thereby obscures the reality that a two-term limit already exists and that the ordinance, if enacted, would actually extend the amount of time in office possible for these officials.

The affidavits of the individual plaintiffs list other points of confusion in both referenda, as worded. Plaintiff Milinkovitch alleges this, for example: “The current Memphis City Council is pointedly attempting to confuse the citizens of Memphis with a poorly-worded referendum. The reason is obvious: the current Council knows that overturning IRV ‘protects’ their incumbencies.”

Ordinance 5669 freads as follows on the November 6th ballot:
“Shall the Charter of the City of Memphis, Tennessee be amended to repeal Instant Runoff Voting and to restore the election procedure existing prior to the 2008 Amendment for all City offices, and expressly retaining the 1991 federal ruling for persons elected to the Memphis City Council single districts?”

Ordinance 5677 reads as follows:
“Shall the Charter of the City of Memphis, Tennessee be amended to provide no person shall be eligible to hold or to be elected to the office of Mayor or Memphis City Council if any such person has served at any time more than three (3) consecutive four-year terms, except that service by persons elected or appointed to fill an unexpired four-year term shall not be counted as full four-year term?”

The urgency of the issue is underscored by the fact that early voting for the November 6th ballot begins on October 17 and will last through November 1st.

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