Change to the Charter 

Election commission proposes staggered terms for council members.

After only 38 percent of registered voters in Memphis turned out during the city election last fall, the Shelby County Election Commission is suggesting that future municipal elections be scheduled at the same time as general elections.

The date change is part of a list of policy suggestions presented by election commission chair Myra Stiles to the Memphis Charter Commission last week. Other suggestions included staggered terms for City Council members and appointing outside counsel on questions regarding municipal elections. But charter commission members asked Stiles to return with a much more defined list of suggestions.

"Ms. Stiles is coming in with a broad pen," said charter commission chair Myron Lowery.

Generally, the city attorney's office deals with municipal election issues. Last fall, Mayor Willie Herenton — the person who appoints the city attorney — claimed to know of vote rigging and voting machine malfunctions.

"There were some who felt he had a conflict at that election," Stiles told charter commission members.

Under the election commission's proposal, staggered terms would require half of the City Council members to run during one election cycle, with the remaining half doing the same two years later.

Proposed changes to the city's charter could come before voters as early as the November election.

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