City Council Weighing Alternatives In Effort To Reform Recall Election Process

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - by Judy Frank

Chattanooga City Council members, saying they are troubled by the many unanswered questions that surround the process of recalling an elected city official, have tackled the task of reforming the process.

The first step, the chairman of the council’s legal committee said, will be to have the city attorney study other municipalities in Tennessee to get a better idea of how they handle recalls in their respective jurisdictions.

City attorney Mike McMahan, noting that state law takes precedence over the city’s charter, said that means officials here will be very limited in what they can do.

But one thing they can tackle, he said, is deciding how many people must sign petitions requesting recalls before one is held.

City Councilwoman Sally Robinson said she is troubled that a relatively small number of people who don’t like a particular elected official can force a recall vote – despite the fact that a majority of voters joined together to elect him or her.

Particularly offensive, she said, is that the people who work to overturn voters’ wish often didn’t even bother to vote in the earlier election.

But Councilman Andrae McGary, who said he has been told that the reason city elections are held in March is to deliberately discourage voter interest and participation, said officials cannot complain about people who don’t vote if elections are designed to keep people away from the polls.

It’s fine to consider ways to reform recall elections, he said, but the council should simultaneously move to have city elections take place at the same time as national and state elections which draw far more voter interest.

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