TN Supreme Court rules special election required for mayoral election in May

(WSMV file photo)
Ludye Wallace has filed a lawsuit against having the mayoral election in August. (WSMV)

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) –

The Tennessee Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Tuesday that Metro Nashville must hold a special mayoral election to fill the position vacated by former Mayor Megan Barry in May, not August.

The ruling reverses a decision made by the Davidson County Election Commission, who decided to hold the election on Aug. 2, the date of an already-scheduled municipal and state-wide primary election.

The court says, according to state law, the Commission now must set a special election to be held between May 21 and May 25, 2018.

The case made its way to the state’s highest court after a lawsuit was filed against the Davidson Co. Election Commission by Ludye Wallace, a former Metro Councilman and mayoral candidate running for the vacant seat, which was initially dismissed in trial court, but the high court granted the plaintiff’s motion to assume jurisdiction on appeal.

The lawsuit contested Metro’s election commissions decision based on a provision of the Metro Charter, approved in a 2007 referendum, that requires a special election to be held whenever a mayoral vacancy “shall exist more than twelve (12) months prior to the date of the next general metropolitan election.”

The court expedited the case schedule and heard oral arguments on April 9, and released their decision the following day.

The central issue, according to the lawsuit, is if the Aug. 2, 2018 election qualifies as a “general metropolitan election” under the Metro Charter, and therefore, would not require a special election.

In the unanimous decision, written by Chief Justice Jeff Bivins, the court determined that the language of the Metro Charter clearly says that a "general metropolitan election" should occur "on the first Thursday of August of every fourth odd-numbered year," which would be Aug. 1, 2019.

The Charter also states that if a mayor vacancy occurs more than 12 months before the next metropolitan election, then a special election must be held.

Additionally, the court ruled that Tennessee state law requires a special election must be held between 75 and 80 days after an elected position is vacated.

Since Megan Barry resigned as mayor on March 6, the special election must take place between May 21-25, 2018.

The ruling says a county election commission is not allowed to set a special election for any other day than the time frame set forth by the city’s charter.

Next, the case will go back to the Commission in order to fulfill the Court’s ruling.

After the Court’s decision was released, interim Mayor David Briley, who is running to take the seat permanently, released a statement, saying:

"The Supreme Court has ruled, and I’ll be ready for the election. I appreciate all the support I’ve already received, and I’m looking forward to a strong campaign over the next six weeks."

An official date of the mayoral special election and early voting dates will be announced by the Davidson Co. Election Commission very soon.

Early voting for the May 1 primary election and transit referendum begins tomorrow, April 11. For information on early voting and the location and hours of al 11 early voting locations, click here.

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