MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - A special election in Shelby County could cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. Questionable ballots, redistricting issues, and voter ID problems during the August 2nd election resulted in two lawsuits against the election commission.
One is from the city of Millington about the sales tax referendum, which failed by two votes. The referendum asked voters to approve a half-cent increase in the sales tax to pay for an independent school district. The city claims the referendum failed because the election commission allowed non-Millington residents to vote.
The other lawsuit against the election commission is from Reverend Kenneth Whalum Junior’s race against Kevin Woods for the Unified School Board District 4 seat. If the two lawsuits had been settled by September 12, there would be no need for a special election and it would not cost taxpayers a dime - but it's not that simple anymore.
"There's simply no time to do so,” said the attorney for the Shelby County Election Commission, Samuel Muldavin.
Muldavin says September 12 was the last day to add anything to the November 6th ballot because that's when absentee and military ballots are mailed. In other words, there is no time to add the Millington sales tax referendum and Whalum's District 4 race to the November ballot.
“We certainly would have preferred to not have to go through the time and the expense of a special election to determine the outcome of these 2 races but that's the price of living in a democracy,” said Muldavin.
The Shelby County Election Commission has no idea how much a special election would cost. One thing is for sure, taxpayers would be footing the bill.
"If it doesn't cost a million dollars it'll cost a thousand dollars, well it's the taxpayers thousand dollars,” said Rev. Kenneth Whalum Jr. “Lately in Memphis and Shelby County it's as if elected officials could give less than a flying flip about spending taxpayer money."
Voters were torn about paying for a special election.
"I think it should be fair. Obviously no one wants to bear the cost of a second redundant election but I think if there is any legitimacy in the claim that there is voter fraud then sure, I want to see a re-election happen,” said Memphis voter Gary Burgoyne.
“I don't think we have to pay for it. I would rather have the recount; besides, we pay for enough things," said another voter ,Sonya Tarton. “It’s really frustrating. They (election commission) need to get it right the first time."
Muldavin says two things could happen in both the Whalum and Millington cases: a judge can rule that the results should be reversed or a special election should be held. No word on when the special election would take place. If nothing is resolved a judge will hear Whalum’s case on October 3 and a different judge will hear the Millington case on October 9.