Election Commissioner: Anderson voting recall deserves legal probe
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
An effort to recall Chattanooga City Councilman, Chris Anderson, has failed after the Hamilton County Election Commission ruled more than 60 percent of signatures gathered for a petition weren't valid. But the controversy isn't over yet.
Now one member of the Election Commission, Jerry Summers, thinks state laws may have been violated during the recall, and thinks the District Attorney's office should investigate.
Voters do have the right to recall an elected official if they're not satisfied, but Summers said the state's current recall statute can jeopardize the entire voting process.
"Fooling around with the electoral process, that's what the issue is," Summers said on Thursday.
The local defense attorney, who also serves on the Hamilton County Election Commission, isn't pleased with the recent Anderson recall controversy.
"It needs to be looked into," said Summers. "Some people think every time they don't get their way, they can just go file a recall."
A group of Alton Park residents, who are displeased with Anderson leading their district, started a recall petition that racked up several thousand signatures.
"It's not because [Anderson] is gay," Gill Schropshire said. "It's because he's not shown or even tried to meet with the people and let them know what he's going to do."
But the Election Commission ruled that more than half of the 3,600 signatures were not valid.
"There were duplicates, a number of people were out of the district and no registration on file for some," explained Kerry Steelman, Election Commission Administrator.
Several state statutes outline possible voting recall violations, like fraudulent signatures, as a Class C misdemeanor.
"This may or may not be fraud, it may be stupidity," said Summers, who believes some voting recalls can be a waste of taxpayer money.
Although Anderson's recall hasn't cost the county financially, it taxed many hours and even days of employees working to verify signatures that were mostly invalid, said an official at the Election Commission's office.
The last voting recall, involving former Mayor Ron Littlefield, took place several years ago. That lawsuit cost the county more than $150,000.
Summers believes election recalls should be reserved for more serious issues, like criminal behavior.
"If you think they got caught with a DUI for the third time, or if they've stolen money from the bank, that's a legitimate reason," said Summers. "But not just because you don't like somebody, or they didn't do what you want them to do."
In order for the DA's office to get involved, they need to get a formal complaint first. As of Thursday, none had been filed for the Anderson recall.
Meantime, Anderson is suing the State of Tennessee and the City of Chattanooga, challenging the constitutionality of the current recall statute.