In the wake of the resignation of Nashville Mayor Megan Barry on March 6, 2018, a special election to fill the balance of her term is required by Tennessee law.
Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) Section 2-14-102 establishes the timing and procedure for scheduling a special election in the event of a vacancy in a municipal office such as Mayor of Nashville:
(a) Special elections shall be held not less than seventy-five (75) days nor more than eighty (80) days after the officer or body charged with calling the election receives notice of the facts requiring the call. An election for an office shall be held on the same day in every county in which it is held. (Emphasis added.)
(1) If it is necessary to hold a special election to fill a vacant seat in the United States house of representatives, a vacancy in a county office, or a vacancy in any municipal office, and the date for such election, as established under subsection (a), falls within thirty (30) days of an upcoming regular primary or general election being held in that district, the governor, or the county election commission, as specified in § 2-14-103, may issue the writ of election for the special election for the date which will coincide with the regular primary or general election. (Emphasis added.)
(2) If the date of the election is adjusted, as provided in subdivision (b)(1), all other dates dependent on the date of election shall be adjusted accordingly, and any filing of candidacy, or qualifying petitions, financial statements, or other acts shall be timely done if performed in accordance with the revised dates.
The Davidson County Election Commission has scheduled a “Special Called” Commission meeting for Friday, March 9, 2018. The notice states an agenda item # 1 as “Add office of Mayor to August 2, 2018 Election Ballot.” The date that the Election Commission is preparing to set for the Special Election appears to be in direct contravention of Tennessee law because it falls well outside the 75-80 day time period within which an election must be held.
Attorney and Nashville resident James D.R. Roberts sent a letter to the Election Commission on March 8, 2018 detailing the applicable law and requesting that the Commission properly set the Special Election. Roberts letter states in part:
The Election Commission published the “Special Meeting” notice on March 7, 2018 triggering Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-14-102(a). As I am sure you are aware, 75 days from March 7, 2018 is May 21, 2018. Pursuant to state law, the election must be held between May 21, 2018 and May 26, 2018 unless Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-14-102(b)(1) applies.
On May 1, 2018, this Election Commission has set a general election in Davidson County. As this is a scheduled general election with in 30 days of the dates specified in Tenn. Code Ann. 2-14-102(a), the Mayoral Special Election can held on Tuesday, May 1, 2018.
Failure to comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-14-102(a) or 102(b)(1) may compromise the legitimacy of the mayoral election. As a citizen and taxpayer of Davidson County, it would be a tragedy if this County would be forced to suffer more.
I trust now you are familiar with Tennessee law governing the timing of special elections, you will take appropriate action to ensure the upcoming Mayoral Special Election will be held on May 1, 2018 or between May 21, 2018 and May 26, 2018. If necessary, appropriate legal action may be taken to insure this election is handled correctly.
While moving the election date 30 days in order to coincide with an already scheduled election date is allowed, the Election Commission does not have to do that.
However, the compliance with the required setting of a special election within 75-80 days of a vacancy being created is not optional.