Election Commission To Make District 9 Runoff Decision Next Wednesday, But Case Likely To Go To Court

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Hamilton County Election Commission will make a decision next Wednesday morning on whether or not there will be a runoff election for the close City Council District 9 race. However, commission members said the matter may ultimately be decided by a local chancellor.

Both Councilman Peter Murphy and former Councilman Yusuf Hakeem had lawyers by their sides at an emergency session of the Election Commission on Wednesday morning. Councilman Murphy was with Stuart James and Mr. Hakeem with Hal North.

The commission discussed the issue, but took no vote because of concerns there was not enough notification to the public under the state Sunshine Law. The meeting was called with less than 24 hours notice.

Mr. Hakeem got six more votes than the incumbent. However, there were seven write-in votes so that Mr. Hakeem did not get over 50 percent. They were the only candidates.

After the meeting, with both candidates and their attorneys present, the seven write-in votes were examined. None of them was for either of the two candidates.

The write-in votes were for Andrae McGary, Moses Freeman, Melanie Collins, J.J. and Michael Dewayne Davenport. Two people chose write-in, but did not write in a name.

Chairman Mike Walden said the office has been advised by state election officials that write-in votes - unless they are for an approved write-in candidate - are not supposed to be considered or reported.

He said, "We are the only one out of 95 counties reporting write-in votes."

Mr. Walden said a part of the problem involves conflicts within the city charter. He said, "The irony is that there was an item on the ballot cleaning up some parts of the city charter, but they left in an 1800s provision about elections. The city charter is an embarrassment. It's simply terrible."

Hamilton County uses paper ballots that are run through a vote counting machine. There is a spot on the ballot for write-ins. However, in this election there were no approved write-in candidates.

Commissioner Jerry Summers, an attorney who is the former election panel lawyer, said during the meeting that the search of the seven write-ins "will show whether they voted for Councilman Murphy, Mr. Hakeem, Donald Duck, Donald Trump or whoever."

He said, "A lot of old time folks may not trust voting machines" and may want to write in their choices.

He noted that the city charter has conflicts on the issue with one section requiring a candidate to get over 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff. If the write-in ballots are counted, Mr. Hakeem got 49.8 percent of the vote, and that is the way the election office reported the results.

Mr. Walden said, "Anybody can write in a name, but we rely on the ones who are on the ballot. No one met the requirement to be a write-in candidate."

Chris Clem, the current Election Commission attorney, said during the meeting, "Let's see what the seven ballots show. I think that will clear up a lot."

Nathan Foster, a programmer at the election office, said it is his opinion that the seven write-ins "are irrelevant" and the only votes that should be counted are for "the two candidates on the ballot."

If a runoff is held, it will be April 9. The only other runoff is for City Council District 4 between Jack Benson and Larry Grohn.

 

 


DPD Seeks ID Of Pair Involved In Theft

The Dalton Police Department is asking for the public’s help identifying two women who worked together to steal an undetermined amount of merchandise from Walmart. The pair were recorded on store surveillance. Investigators believe the suspects live in the Chattanooga area and that they have been involved in numerous thefts from stores across northwest Georgia. ... (click for more)

Ralph Lee Nelms Arrested For Theft At Bradley County Construction Site

Ralph Lee Nelms was arrested for theft at a construction site on Tuesday in Bradley County. Deputies responded to the 100 block of Keystone Drive regarding a theft in progress. Upon arrival, a man was observed getting into a silver Ford Ranger that was in the driveway of a house under construction. Contact was made with the man, later identified as Ralph Lee Nelms, who stated ... (click for more)

Calling Out Bad Behavior In St. Elmo - And Response

I have lived in the St. Elmo community of Chattanooga for practicially all 52 years of my life. My grandmother moved to St. Elmo in 1919. My Dad was literally born in a home in St. Elmo and lived his entire 72 years in this community and my Mom has lived here 60 years of her life. I am very disappointed in what my neighborhood has become. I like people. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Amputee Team Wins Relay

As a news junkie there isn’t a lot that gets past me in my morning reading, yet I had no idea there was a relay race in Chattanooga two weekends ago. Maybe that’s why 1,500 people ran away and never came back – the finish line was in Nashville. How the Ragnar Relays work is pretty simple. The organizers pick two cities that are about 200 miles apart and then 12-to-14 runners ... (click for more)

Seth Ruhling Wins Chattanooga Chase 8K And One Mile

It has been six years since Seth Ruhling ran the Chattanooga Chase and maybe he had forgotten just how tough that 8K course really is, but that’s didn’t seem to matter Monday morning as he celebrated Memorial Day with victory in the Chattanooga Track Club’s oldest race. Ruhling graduated from Collegedale Academy in 2013 and is now a 21-year-old student at Southern Adventist ... (click for more)

Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Football Classic Set For Saturday at CCS

The 13th Annual Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Football Classic, presented by Great Clips, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday June 4 at Chattanooga Christian School in Chattanooga. Tennessee defeated Georgia 38-14 last June at McCallie School in Chattanooga. It was Tennessee's fourth consecutive victory in the series that dates back to the first game held at Ridgeland High in ... (click for more)