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City Charter Update


Mayoral Runoffs

City of ClarksvilleClarksville, TN – In the April 5th meeting of the Charter Committee a recommendation was made concerning the need for a runoff election for the office of mayor.  Both McMillan and Burkhart had supported the need for a runoff during their election efforts.  I have been on record as supporting a runoff also.  If you refer to the minutes of the April meeting, you will see the committee looked at five different options.  We had invited Vicki Koelman from the Election Commission to help us sort out the pros and cons of different options.

The committee, based on the information of issues and problems, decided on an approach that combined two of the options together.  This option would have the mayoral election set for August and a runoff set for November.  In addition, to avoid the confusion of running both the county and city mayoral elections at the same time in the same year, the city mayor’s race would be placed out of sync with the county by two years.

National and state elections are held every two years and the city council elections are already split to operate on the two-year cycle (half the council is voted in every two years for a four year term).  Basically, the mayor who now runs for office with city council wards 1, 2, 6, 7, 10, 11 would swap and move to run with wards 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12.  In order to do this, the committee proposed the mayor’s term be extended two years for a six-year term at the next election.  This was approved by a 4-yes vote.  Councilman Grubbs was absent this meeting.

The committee had explored having the usual November election with a runoff within 30 to 45 days after.  The election commission has issues with this.  They cited they need about 60 days to turn the voting machines around.  Part of this is due to holding election results in case of a contested election or legal battle.  In addition, the election uses volunteers to set and prepare the machines and that takes time.

There were a couple of other issues too.  This would put the election in the middle of the holiday period and according to the Election Commission runoff elections have very poor turnouts and to hold one in the holiday period would weaken it further.  If we wait to January, then the period to take office needs to change too.

A runoff set up this way also forces all the cost on the city.  That amount would be in the range of $70,000 – $80,000.  The committee felt this was a tidy sum for a runoff of one city official that would likely have a very poor turn out.  The city is lucky to get a 30% turnout for a city election.

An additional change was made to the mayoral runoff in our Jun 22nd meeting.  Councilman Burkhart wanted to cut the next mayor’s term of office from the proposed 6-years (to provide for the off cycle election of mayor and runoff) to two years.  We discussed that the cost of an election was high and this was a short return on such an effort.  Councilman Burkhart acknowledged the cost, but the candidates would know this ahead of time.  The committee passed his option without dissent.

Mayor McMillan wasn’t satisfied with the recommendation and had suggested she wanted a runoff shortly after a regular election and the city spend the money to hold it.  I have listed the issues with running an election after the November election and a 60-day turnaround of voting machines.  To move the city mayor election to an August setup on a different cycle and have a runoff 60 days later is a waste of money since national and state elections would be held 30 days later and cost the city much less.   While not mentioned, I would guess she would not be in favor of Councilman’s Burkhart’s approved motion for a one-time two-year term for the next mayoral term.

If this recommendation was brought before the council, the mayor and any other council members that have other ideas or concerns can present their case for changes.  While it is fine to have our state representatives look at this issue, I do not see how they have much of an input.  This particular issue is internal to the City of Clarksville and our legal staff, and the election commission knows of no legal issues with the proposal.

Editor’s Note: This article contains the view points of Councilman Bill Summers and may not represent the views of the rest of the City Council, the City of Clarksville or ClarksvilleOnline.

About Bill Summers




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