Election commission certifies Bluff City recall petitions

J. H. Osborne • Jul 8, 2008 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Recall petitions for four members of Bluff City’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen, including the town’s mayor, were certified Tuesday by the Sullivan County Election Commission.

That simply means the commission approved the format of the petitions, which had to happen before recall supporters could begin collecting signatures.

A separate petition is required for each elected official targeted for recall — in this case, Mayor Todd Malone, Vice Mayor J.C. Gentry, Alderman Don Weaver and Alderman Irene Wells.

Bluff City’s charter permits a recall question to be put on a ballot for all voters if 15 percent of the city’s registered voters sign a petition seeking the recall.

For this recall effort that equals 134 signatures, Sullivan County Administrator of Elections Gena Frye said. Frye has warned that to be a valid, each signature must come from a city resident who is already registered at the time they sign the petition — in other words, you can’t sign the petition, then go register to vote.

Election guidelines allow 75 days, or until Sept. 19, for collection of the required signatures and submission of the completed petitions back to the Election Commission, Frye said.

But in order to be on the ballot in November, the completed petitions must be turned back in to the Election Commission on or before Sept. 5, 60 days before the election, Frye said.

If petitions are received by the Election Commission after Sept 5, but on or before Sept 19, the recall questions could go on the ballot for city elections in May 2009, Frye said.

She described the following process if the recall effort moves forward:

•If enough valid signatures are collected and submitted to the Election Commission — for one or more of the aldermen in question — a date for the ballot will be set. In this case it’s expected to be November.

•Any BMA members named for recall would continue to serve until voters go to the polls.

•Under Bluff City’s charter, a recall vote is a simple yes or no matter. On election day, voters would either vote for or against the recall for each elected official listed on the recall ballot.

•If a majority of voters vote for recall, the elected officials in question vacate office. Remaining members of the BMA would then appoint replacements to fill out their terms.

Frye said she knew of nothing in the city’s charter to prevent remaining BMA members from reappointing a BMA member ousted in the recall.

The process is different than the most recent recall effort in Sullivan County, when several members of the Bristol Tennessee City Council faced recall in 2002.

Under Bristol’s city charter, a required number of valid signatures basically launched a special election for the seats in question — when voters went to the polls, they voted for council candidates, which in some cases included the incumbents.

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