Group sues over ‘confusing’ ballot measures

Save IRV says language needs to be rewritten or removed
(WMC Action News 5)
Updated: Oct. 5, 2018 at 10:08 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The City of Memphis and the Shelby County Election Commission face a new lawsuit less than two weeks before early voting starts.

A local group wants two issues tossed from the November ballot and a third referendum rewritten.

The group Save IRV – which stands for Instant Runoff Voting – said referendums to change term limits and repeal instant runoff voting are worded to intentionally mislead voters.

Instant Runoff Voting is when you rank candidates on your ballot to avoid costly runoff elections.

The group filed a lawsuit in Shelby County Chancery Court on Friday.

Save IRV attorney Randy Fishman said the term limits referendum for Memphis mayor and council is too confusing.

Right now, the limit is two terms, 8 years in office. The referendum asks voters to extend the limits to three terms,12 years in office.

"So, we're asking that they rewrite that and make it clear,” Fishman said.

The other two referendums deal with eliminating instant voter runoffs for council seats.

"They're downright misleading, and that disturbs me as well as my friends and family members,” said plaintiff Erika Sugarmon.

She and Save IRV are suing the City of Memphis and the Shelby County Election Commission to remove the measures from the November ballot.

"I do anticipate more voters in November,” said Elections Administrator Linda Phillips.

Phillips wasn't available for an interview Friday night.

A spokesperson said, "the election commission doesn't comment on pending litigation."

"It appears to be a challenge to the actions of the Memphis City Council, not the administration," said City of Memphis Chief Legal Officer Bruce McMullen.

The council did craft the referendums.

Councilman Edmund Ford Junior is no fan of instant runoff voting...

He declined comment and referred WMC5 to council attorney Allan Wade for comment. Wade said the lawsuit has no merit and he'll see Save IRV in court.

"I'll be there whenever they want me to be there...with bells on,” Wade said. “I think it's going to be an uphill battle for them."

The lawsuit also accuses the City of failing to provide financial data on how much it would cost taxpayers if IRV was repealed.

A hearing is scheduled in Chancery Court Thursday afternoon at 1:30.

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