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Election administrator says move would up voter turnout
Ordinances establishing absentee ballot voting procedures for non-resident property voters in municipal elections have passed in Decherd and Winchester, but the city board members in Estill Springs and Huntland have yet to approve theirs.
The Franklin County Election Office has asked each city government to pass an ordinance, which means that all property voters will begin receiving an absentee ballot in the mail when voting in city elections.
However, some cities have put passing the ordinance on pause to understand it better before making a decision on whether to adopt it.
During the Estill Springs Board’s January meeting, Alderman Earl Davis stated he was leery of passing the ordinance because he felt it was a voter’s right to be able to go to the polls and vote.
Tina Smith, city recorder for Estill Springs, noted that all Estill Springs property owners would still be able to vote, adding that the ordinance may actually be more convenient to those county residents who live in one town but own property in another.
“This way a ballot is just sent to their house,” Smith said.
After further discussion, the Estill Board members later decided to table the ordinance until they better understood its potential impact.
The Estill Springs Board was scheduled to meet last night. Details on that meeting and whether the board passed an ordinance on absentee ballot voting procedures for non-resident property voters will be in a later edition.
At it’s meeting last week, the Huntland Board members were also confused about the ordinance’s purpose and decided to table it.
According to Franklin County Election Administrator Margaret Ottley, the ordinance establishing absentee ballot voting procedures for non-resident property owners in municipal elections will make the process of property rights voting much easier on her and her staff, as well as voters.
“The ordinance would help the Franklin County Election Office because we could handle all the property rights ballots by mail and the poll workers wouldn’t have to,” she said. “And this way the property owner will also have to sign a form saying they still owned the property and we would have time to verify it.”
Ottley also mentioned she thinks that more people will mail in the ballots than have been going to the polls in past city elections.
“I do think there would be a higher turnout,” she said.
The following is the ordinance the City of Winchester has recently adopted:
Ordinance No. 965
An ordinance to establish absentee by mail ballot voting procedures for non-resident property owners in municipal elections.
Whereas, City Charter Article II, Section 2.05, Qualifications of Voters authorizes Property Rights voting, whereby persons residing outside the Corporate Limits of the City of Winchester who own real property inside the Corporate Limits of the City of Winchester are entitled to vote in City elections; and
Whereas, the Tennessee General Assembly recently adopted legislation amending Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 2, Chapter 6, Part 2, (T.C.A. 2-6-205) authorizing those municipalities that allow Property Rights voting to direct Property Rights voters to cast their municipal ballots as absentee ballots; and
Whereas, the Franklin County Election Commission has recommended and requested that the City of Winchester adopt the absentee by mail ballot procedure for Property Rights voters pursuant to T.C.A. 2-6-205 which reads as follows: in the case of individuals who, pursuant to 2-2-107(a) are registered to vote in a municipality as nonresident property owners, the municipal legislative body may, by ordinance, direct such voters to cast the municipal ballots as absentee by mail ballots. Any municipal ordinance adopted pursuant to this section must be adopted and filed with the county election commission office no later than 60 days before the election. Upon the filing of the municipal ordinance, a nonresident property owner may not thereafter vote in the election except by absentee ballot. No later than 45 days before the election, the election commission shall mail a notice to each voter registered as a nonresident property owner of the municipality advising the voter of the voting process and include an application for ballot for the municipal election. The election commission shall maintain a record of the municipal ordinance and shall not require a municipality to adopt subsequent ordinances, unless the municipality has repealed such ordinance since the last election; and
Whereas, the Franklin County Election Committee shall contact all property rights voters by mail before each election. The voter will sign a form saying they continue to own the property and wish to vote in the election. Upon receipt of the form, the voter will be mailed a paper ballot. No in person voting would be available to property rights voters; and
Whereas, the City Council has given due consideration to the recommendation, has conducted a public hearing as required by law, and has determined that this ordinance of amendment shall benefit the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Winchester.