Shelby County Election Commission inquires if county voters shou - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Shelby County Election Commission inquires if county voters should join special election

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MEMPHIS, TN -

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The Shelby County Election Commission is asking if suburban voters can join the vote in February's special election to transfer city schools to the county.

Shelby County Election Commission Chairman Bill Giannini said an argument being used by proponents of Memphis and Shelby County governmental consolidation could now be used against those who wish to merge city and county schools.

"One of the questions out there about this one is the dual-majority vote," said Giannini.

The dual-majority vote is at the center of an unrelated court battle that began in October.  The current law says the majority of county voters must approve any form of consolidation separate from the majority of Memphis voters.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit claimed that since there are fewer people in Shelby County, the dual-majority law gives county residents 2.5 votes for every one vote in Memphis and violates the one-person, one-vote law.

However, the plaintiff's argument supports the resistance to merge city and county schools.

"There are arguments that state law provides for dual-majority vote in this case as well," said Giannini.

Giannini requested an opinion from the Tennessee Coordinator of Elections Office regarding the dual-majority law and the upcoming vote to surrender the city schools charter.

The Election Commission wants the Coordinator's Office to answer if the dual-majority law requires that residents who live in the suburbs be included in the upcoming vote to transfer city schools to the county.

"We are waiting on the coordinator of elections to come back with opinions regarding who votes," said Giannini.

The opinion from the Coordinator's Office and threats by county school leaders to sue if the schools merge could send the school merger into legal purgatory.

"In the consolidation vote, we haven't been able to certify that vote because of a court order," said Giannini.

The Election Commission also asked the Coordinator's Office to give opinions on whether or not city schools filed its request for a special election properly and does the Memphis City Council have right to vote on the matter.

Giannini said he hopes to have the opinions of the Coordinator's Office before the Election Commission's January 5 meeting.

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Dual-majority law:

Tennessee Constitution - Article XI, Section 9

 "The General Assembly may provide for the consolidation of any or all of the governmental and corporate functions now or hereafter vested in municipal corporations with the governmental and corporate functions now or hereafter vested in the counties in which such municipal corporations are located; provided, such consolidations shall not become effective until submitted to the qualified voters residing within the municipal corporation and in the county outside thereof, and approved by a majority of those voting within the municipal corporation and by a majority of those voting in the county outside the municipal corporation."

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Challenge to dual-majority law:

"(1) declares that Tennessee's dual-majority voting requirement is violative of the one person, one vote principle of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments in that it impermissibly dilutes the voting strength of voters residing in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee in a countywide referendum election for the adoption of a metropolitan form of government;"

 "(2) declares that the dual-majority voting requirement is violative of the one person, one vote principle of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments in that it impermissibly dilutes the voting strength of African-Americans residing in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee in a countywide referendum election for the adoption of a metropolitan form of government;"

 "(3) declares that the dual-majority voting requirement is violative of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in that it impermissibly dilutes the voting strength of African-American voters residing in Memphis, Shelby County in a countywide referendum election for the adoption of a metropolitan form of government;"

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