Early voting begins, some confusion over proposal - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Early voting begins, some confusion over proposal

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - It's up to Chattanooga residents to vote on dozens of changes to the city charter, that officials consider outdated. The election administrator says the issue is things aren't written out on the ballot very clearly.

Revisions to 26 items on the city charter were discussed at a December council meeting. Now it's up to voters to give their input. Early voting started earlier this week, but election officials worry the question is too vague on the ballot.

"It's been very slow. People have been coming, but they're coming slowly," Election Commission Deputy Jeraldine Sims said.

Few people were casting their ballots Saturday at the Brainerd Recreation Center so election officials are try to drum up some enthusiasm about making decisions on local races and issues.

"Please come out and vote. This is a privilege to be able to vote, so they need to come out and express themselves," Sims said.

Quenston Coleman wouldn't miss the chance.

"I thought it was important to come out and vote as soon as possible," Coleman said.

But, here's one question on the ballot he wasn't as excited about.

"I voted against it because the wording was too short and the impact is too great," Coleman said.

He's talking about amendments to the city charter, but the 53 word proposal doesn't go into specifics. City Attorney Mike McMahan says that's because it's limited to 200 words on the ballot.

"If you can't tell me what you're going to do, then we need to have some more hearings or more information," Coleman said.

You can find the proposed revisions on the city's web site within 55 pages of council meeting minutes from December. The city attorney has revision notes on each item, some more than a century old. He calls them "archaic." Things like, "Sabbath breaking" for disturbing peace on Sundays, confining criminals to the workhouse, which Chattanooga no longer has, and aiding railroads to develop a 100 mile track... from 1895.

He also updates wording on some that don't apply to the city anymore, like for when the city used to be divided into wards, for example.

On the ballot, the amendment proposal says, "...to delete archaic provisions, modernize its provisions, to conform to state laws of general application, and to generally improve the charter."

Early voting ends February 28th.

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